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Full text of "Twelve years a slave. Narrative of Solomon Northup, a citizen of New York, kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River, in Louisiana"

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RESCUED Ix\ 1853, 






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WHOSE namt:, 



Kcu to Zlndc STom's dtHbin, 



" Such dupes are men to custom, and so prone 
To reverence what is ancient, and can plead 
A course of long observance for its use, 
Tliat even servitude, the worst of ills, 
Because delivered down from sire to son, 
Is kept and guarded as a sacred thing. 
But is it fit, or can it bear the shock 
Of rational discussion, that a man 
Compounded and made up, like other men, 
Of elements tumultuous, in whom lust 
And follf in as ample measure meet, 
.As in the bosom of the slave he rules. 
Should be a despot absolute, and boast 
Himself the only freeman of his land ? " 




Editor's Preface, 15 


Introductory — Ancestry — Tlie Northup Family — Birth and 
Parentage — Miutus Northup — Marriage with Anne Hamp- 
ton — Good Resolutions — Champlain Canal — Rafting Ex- 
cursion to Canada — Farming — The Violin — Cooking — 
Removal to Saratoga — Parker and Perrj- — Slaves and Sla- 
very — The Children — The Beginning of Sorrow, 1*7 


The two Strangers — Tlie Circus Company — Departure from 
Saratoga — Ventriloquism and Legerdemain — Journey to 
Is'ew-York — Free Papers — Brown and Hamilton — The 
haste to reach the Circus — Arrival in Washington — Fune- 
ral of Harrison — The Sudden Sickness — The Torment of 
Thirst — The Receding Light — Insensibility — Chains and 
Darkness, 28 


Painful Meditations — James H. Burch — Williams' Slave Pea 
in Washington — The Lackey, Radburn — Assert my Free- 
dom — The Anger of the Trader — The Paddle and Cat-o'-nine- 
tails — The Whipping — New Acquaintances — Ray, Williams, 
and Randall — Arrival of Little Emily and her Mother in the 
Pen — Maternal Sorrows — The Story of Eliza, 40 




Eliza's Sorrows — rre|'arutit)n to Kmhark — Driven Through 
the Streets of AVasliiiit.'-ton — Iliiil, C'oliitiibiii — Tlic Tomb of 
Wnshiiiiftoii — ("li-iii Ivay — The Breakfast on the Steamer — 
The liappy Birds — Aqiiia Creek — I'redericksburgh — Arri- 
val in Kiehinoinl — Goodiii and his Slave Pen — Kubert, of 
('ineinnati — ])avid and his Wife — Mai'V and Lethe — Clem's 
Betiiru — His subseiiuent Escape to Canada — The Brig Or- 
leans — James JI. Biiroh, 54 

CIIAlTJ:ii V. 

Arrival at Norfolk — Frederick and Maria — Arthur, the Free- 
man — Appointed Steward — Jim, Cuffee, and Jenny — The 
Storm — Bahama Banks — Tho Calm — Tiie Conspiracy — The 
Loiil; Boat — The Small-Pox — Death of Robert — Manning, 
the Sailor — The fleeting in the Forecastle — The Letter — 
Arrival at Ne\v-(jrleans— Arthur's Rescue — Theophilus Free- 
man, the Consignee — Piatt — First Night in the New-Orleans 
Slave Pen, 65 


Freeman's Industry — Cleanliness and Clothes — Exercising in 
the Show Room — The Dance — Bob, the Fiddler — Arrival 
of Customers — Slaves Examined — The Old Gentleman of 
New-Orleaus — Sale of Davi.l, Caroline, and Lethe — Parting 
of Randall and Eliza — Sniall-Pox — The Hospital — Recov- 
ery and Return to Freeman's Slave Pen — The Purchaser of 
Eliza, Harry, and Piatt — Eliza's Agony on Parting from 
Little Emily, 78 


The Steamboat Rodolph — Departure from New-Orleans — Wil- 
liam Ford — Arrival at Alexandria, on Red River — Resolu- 
tions—The Great Pine Woods— Wild Cattle — Martin's Sum- 
mer Residence — The Texas Road — Arrival at Master Ford's 
— Rose — Mistress Ford — Sally and her Children — John, the 
Cook — Walter, Sam, and Antony — Tlie Mills on Indian 
Creek — Sabbath Days — Sam's Conversion — The Profit of 



Kindness — Rafting — Adam Taydom, tlie Little White Man — 
Casealla and his Tribe — The Indian Ball — John M. Tibeats 

— The Storm aj>proaohing, 89 


Ford's Embarrassments — The Sale to Tibeats — The Chattel 
Mortgage — Mistress Ford's Plantation on Bayou Bcenf — 
Description of the Latter — Ford's Brother-in-law, Peter Tan- 
ner — Meeting with Eliza — She still Mourns for her Cliil- 
dren — Ford's Overseer, Chapin — Tibeats' Abuse — The Keg 
of Nails — The First Figlit with Tibeats — His Discomfiture 
and Castigation — Tlie attempt to Hang me — Chapin's In- 
terfei'enee and Speech — Unhapjiy Reflections — Abrupt De- 
parture of Tibeats, Cook, and Ramsey — Lawson and the 
Brown Mule — Message to the Pine Woods, 105 


The Hot Sun — Yet bound — The Cords sink into my Flesh — 
Chapin's Uneasiness — Speculation — Rachel, and her Cup of 
Water — Suffering increases — Tlie Happiness of Slavery — 
Arrival of Ford — He cuts the Cords which bind me, and 
takes the Rope from my Keck — Misery — -The gathering of 
the Slaves in Eliza's Cabin — Their Kindness — Rachel Re- 
peats the Occurrences of the Day — Lawson entertains his 
Companions with an Account of his Ride — Chapin's appre- 
hensions of Tibeats — Hired to Peter Tanner — Peter ex- 
pounds the Scriptures — Description of the Stocks, 118 


Keturn to Tibeats — Impossibility of pleasing him — He at- 
tacks me with a Hatchet — The Struggle over the Broad Axe 

— The Temptation to jSIurder liim — Escape across the Plan- 
tation — Observations from the Fence — Tibeats approaches, 
followed by the Hounds — Tliey take my Track — Their loud 
Yells — They almost overtake me — I reach the Water — 
The Hounds confused — 'Moccasin Snakes — Alligators — Night 
in the "Great Pacoudrie Swamp" — The Sounds of Life — 




North-West Course — Emerge into the Pine "Woods — Slave 
and hk Youui' Master — Arrival ut Ford's — Food and Rest, 131 

CllAlTEK X-I. 

The Mistress' Garden — The Crimson nud (Jokkn Fruit — Or- 
ange and Pomegranate Trees — Return to Bayou Bujuf — 
Master Ford's Reuuirks on the waj- — The Meeting with Tib- 
eats — His Account of the Chase — Ford censures his Brutal- 
ity — Arrival at tlie Plantation — Astonishment of theSlaves 
on seeing me — The anticipated Flogging — Kentucky John 
— Mr. Eldret, the Planter — Eldret's Sam — Trip to the "Big 
Cane Brake "—The Tradition of "Sutton's Field"— Forest 
Trees — Gnats and Mosquitor-s — The Arrival of Black Wo- 
men in the Big Cane — Lumber Women — Sudden Appear- 
ance of Tibeats — His Provoking Treatment — Visit to Ba- 
you Bceuf — The Slave Pass — Southern Uospitality — The 
Last of Eliza — Sale to Edwin Epps, 146 


Personal Appearance of Epps — Epps, Drunk and Sober — A 
Glimpse of his History — Cotton Growing — Tlie Mode of 
Ploughing and Prejiaring Ground — Of Planting, of Hoe- 
ing, of Picking, of Treating Raw Hands — ^The difference in 
Cotton Pickers — Patsey a remarkable one — Tasked accord- 
ing to Ability — Beauty of a Cotton Field — The Slave's La- 
bors — Fear of Approaching the Gin-House — Weighing — 
"Chores"— Cabin Life— The Corn Mill — The Uses of the 
Gourd — Fear of Oversleeping — Fear continually — Mode 
of Cultivating Corn — Sweet Potatoes — Fertility of the Soil 
— P\itteiiing Hogs — Preserving Bacon — Raising Cattle — 
Shooting-Matches — Garden Products — Flowers and Verdure, 162 

CIIAlTEli Xlll. 

The Curious Axe-Helve — Symptoms of approaching Hlness — 
Continue to decline — The Whip inelfectual ^ Confined 



to the Cabin — Visit by Dr. Wines — Partial Reeoverj- — Fail- 
ure at Cotton Picking — What may be heard on Epps' Plan- 
tation — Lashes Graduated — Epps in a Whipping Mood — 
Eppsin a Dancing Mood — Description of the Dance — Loss 
of Rest no Excuse — Epps' Characteristics — Jim Burns — Re- 
moval from Huff Power to Bayoxi Bo3uf — Description of 
Uncle Abram ; of Wiley ; of Aunt Pliebe ; of Bob, Henry, 
and Edward ; of Patsey ; with a Genealogical Account of 
each — Something of their Past History, and Peculiar Char- 
acteristics — Jealousy and Lust — Patsey, the Victim, 17G 


Destruction of the Cotton Crop in 1815 — Demand for Laborers 
in St. Mary's Parish — Sent thither in a Drove — The Order 
of the March — The Grand Coteau — Hired to Judge Turner on 
Bayou Salle — Appointed Driver in his Sugar House — Sun- 
day Services — Shive Furniture ; how obtained — The Party 
at Yarney's, in Ceutreville — Good Fortune — The Captain 
of the Steamer — His Refusal to Secrete me — Return to Ba- 
you Boeuf — Sight of Tibeats — Patsey's Sorrows — Tumult 
and Contention — Hunting the Coon and Opossum — The 
Cunning of the latter — The Lean Condition of the Slave — 
Description of the Fish Trap — The Murder of the Man from 
Katchez — Epps Chalenged by Marshall — The Influence of 
Slavery — The Love of Freedom, 191 


Labors on Sugar Plantations — Tlie Mode of Planting Cane — 
of Hoeing Cane — Cane Ricks — Cutting Cane — Description 
of the Cane Knife — Winrowing — Preparing for Succeeding 
Crops — Description of Hawkins' Sugar Mill on Bayou Bceuf 
— The Christmas Holidays — The Carnival Season of the 
Children of Bondage — The Christmas Supper — Red, the Fa- 
vorite Color — The Violin, and the Consolation it afforded — 
The Christmas Dance — Lively, the Coquette — Sam Roberts, 
and his Rivals — Slave Songs — Southern Life as it is — Three 
Days in the Year — The System of Marriage — Uncle Abram'a 
Contempt of Matrimony, 208 




Oversei^rs — How tliey are Armed and Aocotnpaniid — Tlie 
Ilomioido — His KxiMMitioii at Marksville — Sluvo Drivers — • 
Appointed Driver on i-eiiu>viiig to IJayoii B(jeuf — Practice 
make:! perfect — Kpps's Attempt to Cut Piatt's Throat — The 
Escape from him — Protected by tlie Mistress — Forbids Read- 
iui^ and Writiu'^ — (Obtain a Sheet of Paper aftor Nine Years' 
Etfoit — Tiie Letter — Armsby, the Mean "W'liite — Partially 
contide ill him — Ilis Treachery — Epps' Suspiciona — Uow 
tliey Were quieted — Burning the Letter — Armsby leaves 
the Bayou — Disapiiointment and Despair, 228 


AViley disregards the counsels of Aunt Phebe and Uncle Abram, 
and is caught by the PatroUers — The Organization and Du- 
ties of the latter — \Viley Runs Away — Si)eeulations in re- 
gard to him — His L'nexpected Return — His Capture on the 
Red River, and Confinemeut in Alexandria Jail — Discovered 
bv Joseph B. Roberts — Subduing Dogs in anticipation of 
Escape — The Fugitives in the Great Pine Woods — Captur- 
ed by Adam Taj'dem and the Indians — Augustus killed by 
Dogs — ^'clly, Eldret's Slave Woman — The Story of Celeste 

— The Concerted Movement — Lew Cheney, the Traitor — 
The Idea of Insurrection, 236 


O'Niel, the Tanner — Conversation with Aunt Phebe overheard 

— Epps in the Tanning Business — Stabbing of Uncle Abram 

— The Ugly Wound — Epps is Jealous — Patsey is Missing — 
Her Return from Shaw's — Harriet, Shaw's Black Wife — 
Epps Enraged — Patsey denies his Charges — She is Tied 
Down Naked to Four Stakes — The Inhuman Flogging — 
Flaying of Patsey — Tlie Beauty of the Day — The Bucket of 
Salt Water — The Dress stiff with Blood — Patsey grows 
Melancholy — Her Idea of God and Etei-nitx" — Of Heaven and 
Freedom — The Effect of Slave-Wliii>ping — Epps' Oldest Son 

— " Tlie Child is Father to the Man," 250 




Avery, on Bayou Rouge — Peculiarity of Dwellings — Epps 
builds a New House — Bass, the Carpenter — His Noble Qual- 
ities — His Personal Appearance and Eccentricities — Bass 
and Epps discuss the Question of Slavery- — Epps' Opinion 
of Bass — I make myself known to him — Our Conversation 

— His Surprise — The Midnight Meeting on the Bayou Bank 

— Bass' Assurances — Declares "War against Slavery — Why 
I did not Disclose my History — Bass writes Letters — Copy 
of his Letter to Messrs. Parker and Perry — The Fever of 
Suspense — Disappointments — Bass endeavors to cheer me 

— My Faith in him, 263 


Bass faithful to his word — His Arrival on Christmas Eve — 
The Difficulty of Obtaining an Interview — The Meeting in 
the Cabin — Non-arrival of the Letter — Bass annoiinces his 
Intention to proceed North — Christmas — Coversation be- 
tween Epps and Bass — Young Mistress McCoy, the Beauty 
of Bayou Boeuf — The "Ne plus ultra" of Dinners — Music 
and Dancing — Presence of the Mistress — Her Exceeding 
Beauty — The Last Slave Dance — William Pierce — Over- " 
sleep myself — The Last Whipping — Despondency — Cold 
Morning — Epps' Threats — The Passing Carriage — Stran- 
gers approaching through the Cotton-Field — Last Hour on 
Bayou Boeuf, 2*79 


The Letter reaches Saratoga — Is forwarded to Anne — Is laid 
before Henry B. Northup — The Statute of May 14, 1840 — 
Its Provisions — Anne's Memorial to the Governor — The af- 
fidavits Accompanying it — Senator Soule's Letter — Depar- 
ture of the Agent appointed by the Governor — Arrival at 
Marksville — The Hon. John P. Waddill — The Conversation 
on New-York Politics — It suggests a Fortunate Idea — The 
Meeting with Bass — The Secret out — Legal Proceedings in- 
fitituted — Departure of Northup and the Sheriff from Marks- 



rille for Bayou BiT-uf — Ariantr<Mnoiits on tlie ^Viiy — Reacli 
E|'ps' I'lautation — Discover liis Slaves in the Cotton-Field — 
The Meeting — The Farewell 289 


Arrival in New-Orleans — Glimpse of Freeman — Genois, the 
Kecorder — Ilis Description of Solomon — Reach Charleston 
Interrupted by Custom House Otfieers — Pass through Rich- 
mond — Arrival in Washington — Burch Arrested — Shekels 
and Thorn — Their Testimony — Burch Acquitted — Arrest 
of Solomon — Burch witlidraws the Complaint — The High- 
er Tribunal — Departure from Washington — Arrival at San- 
dy Hill — Old Friends and Familiar Scenes — Proceed to 
Glens Falls — Meeting with Anne, Margaret, and Elizabeth — 
Solomon Northup Staunton — Incidents — Conclusion, 310 

Appendix, 323 


Portrait or Solomon in his Plantation Surr, 

Scene in the Slave Pen at Washington 

Separation ok Eliza and her last Child, 

Chapin rescues Solomon from Hanging, 

The Staking out and Flogging of the girl Patsey, 

Scene in the Cotton Field, and Solomon's Delivery, 

Arrival Home, and first meeting with hls Wife and Children, 


When the editor commenced the preparation of the fol- 
lowmg narrative, he did not suppose it would reach the size of 
this vohmie. hi order, however, to present all the facts which 
have been communicated to him, it has seemed necessary to 
extend it to its present length. 

Many of the statements contained in the following pages are 
corroborated by abundant evidence — others rest entirely upon 
Solomon's assertion. That he has adhered strictly to the truth, 
the editor, at least, who has had an opportunity of detecting 
any contradiction or discrepancy ui his statements, is well sat- 
isfied. He has invariably repeated the same story without 
deviating in the slightest particular, and has also carefully pe- 
rused the manuscript, dictating an alteration wherever the most 
trivial inaccuracy has appeared. 

It was Solomon's fortune, during his captivity, to be owned by 
several masters. The treatment he recei^•ed while at the " Pme 
Woods " shows that among slaveholders there are men of hu- 
manity as well as of cruelty. Some of them are spoken of with 
emotions of gratitude — others in a spirit of bitterness. It is 


believed that the lolluwing atrouiit ot' his ix[ eric-ncc on Bayou 
BtL'ut' present.s a correct picture ol" Siuvtiv, in all its lights and 
sluidows, as it now exists in that loealily. Inbiased, as he 
conceives, l»y any prejxjssessions or prejudices, the only object 
of the editor has been to give a faithful history of Solomon 
Northup's life, as he received it from his lips. 

In the accomplishment of that object, he trusts he has suc- 
ceeded, n<:»twitlastanding the numerous faults of style and of 
expresssion it may be found to contain. 


"Whitehall, \. Y., May, 1853. 







IIavixg l3een born a freeman, and for more than 
tliirty years enjoyed the blessings of liberty in a free 
State — and having at the end of that time been kid- 
najDped and sold into Slavery, where I remained, until 
happily rescued in the month of January, 1853, after 
a bondage of twelve years — it has been suggested 
that an accomit of my life and fortunes would not be 
uninteresting to the public. 

' Since my return to liberty, I have not failed to per- 
ceive the increasing interest throughout the Xorthem 
States, in regard to the subject of Slavery. "Works of 
fiction, professing to portray its features in their more 
pleasing as well as more repugnant aspects, have been 


circulated to an extent unprecedented, and, as I un- 
derstand, have created a tVuiti'ul topic of comment and 


1 can speak of Slavery only so far as it came under 

my own observation — only so far as I have known 
and experienced it in niy own person. My object is, 
to give a candid and truthful statement of facts: to 
repeat the story uf my life, -without exag'geration, leav- 
ing it for others to determine, whether even the ])ages 
of liction pi'cseut a picture uf more cruel ^vrong or a 
severer bondage. 

As far back as I have been able to ascertain, my 
ancesti>rs on the paternal side were slaves in Rhode 
Island. They belonged to a fomily by the name of 
Korthup, one of whom, removing to the State of Xew- 
York, settled at lloosic, in Kensselaer county. lie 
brought with him 'Mintus Xorthup, my father. On 
the death of this gentleman, wdiicli must have occur- 
red some fifty years ago, my father became free, hav- 
ing been emancipated by a direction in his will. 

lleiiry 1>. Xnrtlmp, Es(|., of Sandy Hill, a distin- 
guished connseliir at law, and the man to whom, un- 
der Providence, I am indebted for my present liberty, 
and my return to the society of my wife and children, 
is a relative of the family in which my forefathers 
were thus held to service, and from which they took 
the name I l)ear. To this fact may be attributed the 
persevering interest lie has taken iu my behalf. 

Sometime after my father's liberation, he removed 
to the town of Minerva, Essex county, X. Y., %vhere I 


was born, in the montli of Jnh', 1S08. IIow long lie 
remained in tlie latter place I have not the means of 
detinitelj ascertaining. From thence he removed to 
Granville, Washington connty, near a place known as 
Slyborongh, where, for some years, he labored on the 
farm of Clark JSTorthup, also a relative of his old mas- 
ter ; from thence he removed to the Alden farm, at 
Moss Street, a sliort distance north of the village of 
Sandy Hill ; and from thence to the farm now owned 
by Russel Pratt, sitnated on the road leading from 
Fort Edward to Argyle, where he continued to reside 
until his death, which took place on. the 22d day of 
NoA^ember, 1820. He left a widow and two children 
— myself, and Joseph, an elder brother. The latter 
is still living in the connty of Oswego, near the city 
of that name ; my mother died during the period of 
my captivity. 

Though born a slave, and laboring under the disad- 
vantages to which .my unfortunate race is subjected, 
my father was a man respected for his industry and 
integrity, as many now living, who well remember 
him, are ready to testify. His whole life was passed in 
the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, never seeking em- 
ployment in those more menial positions, which seem- 
to be especially allotted to the children of Africa. Be- 
sides giving us an education surpassing that ordinari- 
ly bestowed upon children in our condition, he ac- 
quired, by his diligence and economy, a sufficient 
property qualification to entitle him to the right of 
Buflrage. He was accustomed to speak to us of his 


earlj life ; and althoui^h at all times clierisliini^ the 
wannest emotions of kindness, and even of alfectioii 
towards the family, in whose honse he ha<l heeu a 
bondsman, he nevertheless comprehended the system 
of Slavery, and dwelt with sorrow on the degradation 
of his race. lie endeavored to imhue our minds with 
sentiments of morality, and to teach us to ])lace our 
trust and confidence in Ilim who regards the humblest 
as well as the highest of his creatures. How often 
since that time has the recollection of his paternal 
counsels occurred to me, while lying in a slave hut in 
the distant and sickly regions of Louisiana, snuirting 
with the undeserved wounds which an inhunum nuis- 
ter had inflicted, and lonijino: onlv for the o-rave which 
had covered him, to shield me also from the lash of 
the oppressor. In the church-yard at Sandy Ilill, an 
humble stone marks the spot where he reposes, after 
having worthily performed the duties appertaining to 
the lowly sphere wherein God had appointed him to 

Up to this period I had been principally engaged 
with my father in the labors of the farm. The leis- 
ure hours allowed me were generally either employed 
over my books, or playing on the violin — an amuse- 
ment which was the ruling passion of my youth. It 
has also been the source of consolation since, affordino: 
jileasure to the simple beings with whom my lot was 
cast, and beguiling my own thoughts, for many hours, 
from the painful contemplation of my fate. 
, On Christmas dav, 1S29, I was married to Anne 


Ilampton, a colored girl then living in the vicinity of 
our residence. Tlie ceremony was performed at Fort 
Edward, by Timothy Eddy, Esq., a magistrate of 
that town, and still a prominent citizen of the place. 
She had resided a long time at Sandy Hill, with Mr. 
Baird, proprietor of the Eagle Tavern, and also in the 
family of Rev. Alexander Prondfit, of Salem. This 
gentleman for many years had presided over the Pres- 
byterian society at the latter place, and was widely 
distinguished for his learning and piety. Anne 
still holds in m-ateful remembrance the exceedino; 
kindness and the excellent counsels of that good man. 
She is not able to determine the exact line of her de- 
scent, but the blood of three races mingles in her 
veins. It is difficult to tell whether the red, white, or 
black predominates. The union of them all, however, 
in her origin, has given her a singular but pleasing 
expression, such as is rarely to be seen. Though 
somewhat resembling, yet she cannot properly be 
styled a quadroon, a class to which, I have omitted to 
mention, my mother belonged. 

I had just now passed the period of my minority, 
having reached the age of twenty-one years in the 
month of July previous. Deprived of the advice and 
assistance of my father, with a wife dependent uj)on. 
me for support, I resolved to enter upon a life of in- 
dustry ; and notwithstanding the obstacle of color, 
and the consciousness of my lowly state, indulged in 
pleasant dreams of a good time coming, when the pos- 
session of some humble habitation, with a few sur- 


niunding acres, should reward my labors, and bring 
me the means ofluipphioss and comfort. 

Friim the time of my marriage to this day the love 
I have borne my wife has been sincere and unabated; 
and only tlmse who have felt the glowing tenderness 
a father cherislies for his oH'spring, can appreciate my 
atfeetion for the beloved children which have since 
been burn to us. This much I deem appropriate and 
necessary to say, in order that those who read these 
jtages, may comprehend the poignancy of those suf- 
ferings I have been dounied to bear. 

Immediately ui)on our marriage we commenced 
house-keeping, in the old yellow building then stand- 
ing at the southern extremity of Fort Edward village, 
and whicli has since been transformed into a modern 
mansion, and lately occupied by Ca]>tain Lathrop. 
It is known as the Fort House. In this building the 
courts were sometime held after the organization of 
the county. It was also occupied by ]?urgoyne in 
1777, being situated near the old Fort on the left bank 
of the Ihulsuu. 

During the winter I was employed with others re- 
2:)airing the Chani})lain Canal, on that section over 
which AVilliam Van Xortwick was superintendent. 
David McEachron had the immediate charge of the 
men in whose company I labored. By the time the 
canal opened in the spring, I was enabled, from the 
savings of my wages, to purchase a pair of horses, and 
otlier thing's necessarily required in the business of 


Having liired several efficient hands to assist me, I 
entered into contracts for the transportation of large 
rafts of tinil)er from Lake Champlain to Troy. Djer 
Beckwitli and a Jlr. Bartcmy, of AVhiteliall, accompa- 
nied me on several trips. During the season I be- 
came perfectly familiar with the art and mysteries of 
rafting — a knowledge which afterwards enabled me 
to render profitable service to a worthy master, and 
to astonish the simple-witted lumbermen on the banks 
of the Bayou Boeuf. 

In one of my voyages down Lake Champlain, I was 
induced to make a visit to Canada. Bepairing to 
Montreal, I visited the cathedi-al and other places of 
interest in that city, from whence I continued my ex- 
cursion to Kingston and other towns, obtaining a 
knowledge of localities, which was also of service to 
me afterwards, as will appear towards the close of 
this narrative. 

Having completed my contracts on the canal satis- 
factorily to myself and to my employer, and not wish- 
ing to remain idle, now that the navigation of the ca- 
nal was again suspended, I entered into another con- 
tract with Medad Gunn, to cut a large quantity of 
wood. In this business I was engaged during the 
winter of 1831-32. 

With the return of spring, Anne and myself con- 
ceived the project of taking a farm in the neighbor- 
hood. I had been accustomed fi'om earliest youth to 
agricultural labors, and it was an occupation conge- 
nial to my tastes. I accordingly entered into arrange- 


ijicnts for a jiart of the old Akleii farm, on wliieli my 
father formerly resided. "With one cow, one swine, 
a yoke of tine oxen 1 iiad lately ]itii-chased of Lewis 
l>rown,in Hartford, and otlier personal proj^erty and 
effects, we ])roceeded to our new home in Kingsbury. 
That yeai- I phinted twenty-live acres of corn, sowed 
large Helds of oats, and commenced farming upon as 
large a scale as my utmost means would ])ermit. 
Anne was diligent about the house affairs, while I 
toiled laboriously in the field. 

On this place we continued to reside until 1834. 
In the winter season I had numerous calls to l»lay on 
the violin. "Wherever the young people assembled to 
dance, I was almost invariably there. Throughout 
the surrounding villages my fiildle was notorious. 
Anne, also, during her long residence at the Eagle 
Tavern, had Ix'come somewhat famous as a cook. 
During court Aveeks, and on public occasions, she was 
employed at high wages in the kitchen at Sherrill's 
Coffee House. 

"We always returned home from the performance 
of these services with money in our pockets ; so that, 
with fiddling, cooking, and farming, we soon found 
oui*selves in the possession of abundance, and, in fact, 
leading a ha})py an<l prosperous life. "Well, indeed, 
would it have been for us had we remained on the 
farm at Kingsbury ; but the time came when the 
next step \vas to be taken towards the cruel destiny 
that awaited me. ■ 

In March, 1834, we removed to Saratoga Springs. 


We occupied a liouse belonging to Daniel O'Brien, 
on the north side of Washington street. At that time 
Isaac Taylor kept a large boarding house, kno"s\'n as 
Washington Hall, at the north end of Broadway. He 
employed me to drive a hack, in which capacity I 
worked for him two years. After this time I was 
generally .employed through the visiting season, as 
also was Anne, in the United States Hotel, and other 
public houses of the place. In winter seasons I re- 
lied upon my violin, though during the construction. 
of the Troy and Saratoga railroad, I performed many 
hard days' labor upon it. 

I was in the habit, at Saratoga, of purchasing arti- 
cles necessary for my family at the stores of jMr. Ce- 
phas Parker and Mr. William Perry, gentlemen 
towards whom, for many acts of kindness, I enter- 
tained feelings of strong regard. It was for this rea- 
son that, twelve years afterwards, I caused to be di- 
rected to them the letter, which is hereinafter insert- 
ed, and which was the ineans, in the hands of Mr. 
Korthup, of my fortunate deliverance. 

While living at the United States Hotel, I frequent- 
ly met with slaves, who had accompanied their mas- 
ters from the South. They were always well dressed 
and well provided for, leading apparently an easy life, 
with but few of its ordinary troubles to perplex them. 
Many times they entered into conversation with me 
on the subject of Slavery. Almost uniformly I found 
they cherished a secret desire for liberty. Some of 
them expressed the most ardent anxiety to escape, and 

26 t\\t:la'e yeaks a slvte. 

coii.sultei-1 lue c.i the best inetliod ol' elit'dhio; it. Tlie 
fear <>1" ])unislinient, however, which tliey knew was 
certain to attend their re-ea])ture and return, in all 
easL's j)roved snthciL-nt to deter them from the exper- 
iment, llavini; all my life breathed the free air of 
the Xt)rth, and conscious that I ])ossessed the same 
feelings and afi'ections that find a ])lace in the Avhite 
man's breast; conscious, moreover, of an intellii:;ence 
eijual to that of some men, at least, with a fairer skin, 
I was too iijnorant, perhaps too independent, to con- 
ceive how any one could be content to live in the ab- 
ject condition of a slave. I could not comprehend the 
justice of that law, or that religion, which upholds or 
recognizes the principle of Slavery; and never once, 
I am proud to say, did I fail to counsel any one who 
came to me, to watch his opportunity, and strike for 

I continued to reside at Saratoga until the spring of 
184:1. The flattering anticipiitions which, seven years 
before, had seduced us from the quiet farm-house, on 
the east side of the Hudson, had not been realized. 
Though always in comfortable circumstances, we 
had not prospered. Tlie society and associations at that 
world-renowned Avatering ])lace, M'ere not calculated 
to preserve the simple habits of industry and economy 
to which I had been accustomed, but, on the contraiy, 
to substitute othei's in their stead, tending to shift- 
lessness and extravagance. 

At this time we were the pavcu'-; of three children 
■ — Elizabeth, Margaret, and Alon;^'. Elizabeth, the 


eldest. Tvos in lier tentli year ; Margaret was two 
years younger, and little Alonzo had just passed liis 
fifth birth-day. They filled our house with ghidness. 
Their young voices were music in our ears. Many an 
airy castle did their mother and myself build for the 
little innocents. When not at labor I was always 
walking Avith them, clad in their best attire, through 
the streets and groves of Saratoga. Their presence 
was my delight ; and I clasped them to my bosom 
with as warm and tender love us if their clouded skins 
had been as white as snow. 

Thus far the history of my life presents nothing 
whalcv'v :■ unu&ual — nothing but the common liopes, 
and loves, and labors of an obscure colored man, ma- 
king his humble progress in the world. But now I 
had reached a turning point in my existence — reach- 
ed the threshold of tmutteraljle wrong, and sorrow, 
and (.li>.-pair. Xow had I approached within the shad- 
OAv of tlio cloud, into the thick darkness whereof I was 
so. 1,1 tc di-.ipjiear, thenceforward to be hidden from 
the eyes of all my kindred, and shut out from the 
sweet light of liberty, for many a weary year. 






OxE moriiiiif;, towards tlie latter part of tlic month 
of March, 184-1, liaving at that time no particuhir 
business to engage my attention, I ^vas walking about 
the village of Saratoga Springs, thinking to myself 
■where I might obtain some present employment, un- 
til the busy season should arrive, Anne, as was her 
usual custom, had gone over to Sandy Hill, a dis- 
tance of some twenty miles, to take charge of the cu- 
linary department at Sherrill's Coffee House, during 
the session of the court. Elizabeth, I think, had ac- 
companied her. Margaret and Alonzo were with 
their aunt at Saratoga. 

On the corner of Congress street and Broadway, 
near the tavern, then, and for aught I know to the 
contrary, still kept by Mr. Moon, I was met by two 
gentlemen of respectable appearance, both of whom 
were entirely unknown to me. I have the impres- 

THE rU'O STK.\JSrGEE3. 29 

sion that tliej were introduced to me by some one of 
mj acquaintances, but who, I have in vain endeavor- 
ed to recall, with the remark that I was an expert 
player on the violin. 

At any rate, they immediately entered into conver- 
sation on that subject, making numerous incpiiries 
touching my proficiency in that respect. My respon- 
ses being to all appearances satisfactory, they propos- 
ed to engage my services for a short period, stating, 
at the same time, I was just such a pereon as their 
Inisiness required. Their names, as they afterwards 
gave them to me, were Merrill Brown and Abram 
Hamilton, though whether these were their true ap- 
pellations, I have strong reasons to doubt. The for- 
mer "was a man apparently forty years of age, some- 
what short and thick-set, with a countenance indica- 
ting shrewdness and intelligence. He wore a black 
frock coat and black hat, and said he resided either at 
Rochester or at Syracuse. The latter was a young 
man of fair complexion and light eyes, and, I should 
judge, had not passed the age of twenty-five. He 
was tall and slender, dressed in a snufi'-colored coat, 
with glossy hat, and vest of elegant pattern. His 
whole apparel was in the extreme of fashion. His 
appearance Avas somewhat efteminate, but prepossess- 
ing, and there was about him an easy air, that showed 
he had mingled with the world. They were connect- 
ed, as they informed me, with a circus company, then 
in the city of "Washington ; that they were on their 


M'ay thither to rejoin it, having left it for a short time 
to make an excursion northward, for tlie purpose of 
seeing the country, and were paying their expenses 
hy an occasional exhi])ition. Tliey also remarked 
that they had found much dilliculty in procuring mu- 
sic for their entertainments, and that if 1 would ac- 
company them as tar as Xew-York, they would give 
me one dollar for each day's services, and three dol- 
lars in addition for every night I played at their per- 
formances, besides sufficient to ])ay tlie expenses of 
my return from New- York to Saratoga. 

I at once accepted the tempting ofl'er, both for the 
reward it promised, and from a desire to visit the 
metropolis. They were anxious to leave immediately. 
Thinking my absence would be brief, I did not deem 
it necessary to write to Anne whither I had gone; 
in fact su2)posing that my return, perhaps, would l)e 
as soon as hers. So taking a change of linen and my 
violin, I was ready to depart. The carriage was 
brought round — a covered one, drawn by a pair of 
noble bays, altogether forming an elegant establish- 
ment. Their baggage, consisting of three large 
trunks, was fastened on the rack, and mounting to 
the driver's seat, while they took their places in the 
rear, I drove away from Saratoga on the road to 
Albany, elated with my new position, and happy as 
I had ever been, on any day in all my life. 

We passed through Ballston, and striking the ridge 
road, as it is called, if my memory correctly serves 


me, followed it direct to Albany. TVe reached that 
citv before dark, and sti)pped at a hotel southward 
from the Museum. 

This night I had an opportunity of uitnessiug one 
of their performances — the only one, during the whole 
period I was with them. Hamilton was stationed at 
the door ; I formed the orchestra, wdiile Brown pro- 
vided tiie entertainment. It consisted in throwing 
balls, dancing on the rope, frying ^^ancakes in a hat, 
causing invisible pigs to squeal, and other like feats 
of ventriloquism and legerdemain. The audience 
was extraordinarily sparse, and not of the selectest 
character at that, and Hamilton's report of the pro- 
ceeds presented but a " beggarly account of empty 

Early next morning we renewed our journey. Tlie 
burden of their conversation now was the expression 
of an anxiety to reach the circus without delay. 
They hurried forward, without again stopping to ex- 
hibit, and in duo course of time, we reached Xew- 
York, taking lodgings at a house on the west side of 
the city, in a street running from Broadway to the 
river. I su2)posed my journey was at an end, and 
expected in a day or two at least, to return to my 
friends and fjimily at Saratoga. Brown and Hamil- 
ton, however, began to importuneme to continue with 
them to Washington. They alleged that immediately 
on their arrival, now that the summer season was ap- 
proaching, the circus would set out for the north. 
They promised me a situation and high wages if I 

32 T^^^:L^^^ years a slave. 

would accompany them. Largely did tliey expatiate 
on the advantages that would result to me, and such 
wore the flattering representations they made, that I 
finally concluded to accej^t the offer. 

Tlic next morning they suggested that, inasmuch 
as we were about entering a slave State, it would be 
well, before leaving Xew-York, to procure free pa- 
pers. Tlie idea struck me as a prudent one, though I 
think it would scarcely have occurred to me, had they 
not proposed it. "We proceeded at once to what I un- 
derstood to be the Custom House. They made oath to 
certain facts showing I was a free man. A paper was 
drawn up and handed us, with the direction to take it 
t>) tlie clerk's office. "We did so, and the clerk having 
added something to it, for which he was paid six shil- 
lings, we returned again to the Custom House. Some 
further formalities were gone through with before it 
was completed, when, paying the officer two dollai-s, 
I placed the papers in my pocket, and started with 
my two friends to our hotel. I thought at the time, 
I must confess, that the papers were scarcely worth the 
cost of obtaining them — the apprehension of danger 
to my personal safety never having suggested itself 
to mo in the remotest manner. The clerk, to whom 
we were directed, I remember, made a memorandum 
in a large book, which, I presume, is in the office 
yet. A reference to the entries during the latter part 
of IMarch, or first of April, 1841, I have no doubt 
will satisfy the incredulous, at least so far as this par- 
ticular transaction is concerned. 


AVitli tlie evidence of freedom in my possession, the 
next day after onr arrival in New- Y< irk, wo crossed 
the ferry to Jersey City, and took the road to Phila- 
delphia. Here wo remained one night, continuing 
onr jonrney towards Baltimore early in the morning. 
In due time, we arrived in the latter city, and stopped 
at a hotel near the railroad depot, either kept by a 
]\[r. Ivathbone, or known as the Rathbone House. 
All the way from jSTew-York, their anxiety to reach 
tlie circus seemed to grow more and more intense. 
We left the carriage at Baltimore, and entering the 
cars, proceeded to AVashington, at which place we 
arrived just at nightfall, the evening previous to the 
funeral of General Harrison, and stopped at Gadsby's 
Hotel, on Pennsylvania Avenue. 

After supper they called me to their apartments, 
and paid me forty-three dollars, a sum greater than 
my wages amounted to, which act of generosity was 
in consequence, they said, of their not having exhib- 
ited as often as they had given me to anticipate, du- 
ring our trip from Saratoga. They moreover inform- 
ed me that it had been the intention of the circus 
company to leave Washington the next morning, but 
that on account of the funeral, they had concluded to 
remain another day. They were then, as they had been 
from the time of our first meeting, extremely kind. 
INTo opportunity was omitted of addressing me in the 
language of approbation ; while, on the other hand, 

I was certainly much prepossessed in their favor. I 
B* 8 


gave tliciii my confidence \vitlir»ut I'csorvc, and would 
Irccly liave trusted tlieni to almost any extent. Their 
constant conversation and manner towards me — tlieir 
furesii;-lit in sugg-esting the idea of free papers, and a 
linndred other little acts, unnecessary to ])e r(.'j>eate<l — ■ 
all indicated that they were friends indeed, sincerely 
solicitous for my welfare. I know not but they were. 
I know not hut they were innocent of the great wick- 
edness of which I now believe them guilty. AV hcther 
they were accessory to my misfortunes — subtle and 
inhuman monsters in the sha})e of men — designedly 
luring me away iVoiii liome and family, and liberty, 
for the sake of gold — those who read these pages 
M'ill have the same means of determining as myself. 
If they were innocent, my sudden disaj)})earance 
must have been miaccountable indeed; but revolv- 
ing in my mind all the attending circumstances, I 
never yet could indulge, towards them, so charitable 
a supposition. 

After receiving the money from them, of which 
tliey appeared to have an abundance, they advised 
me not to go into the streets that night, inasmuch 
as I was unac(|uaintedwitli the custijms of the city. 
Promising to remember their advice, I left them to- 
gether, and soon after was shown by a colored ser- 
vant to a sleeping room in the back part of the hotel, 
on the ground tioor. I laid down to rest, thinking of 
home and wife, and children, and the long distance 
that stretched betNveen us, until I fell asleej). 13ut 


110 good angel of pity came to my bedside, Lidding 
me to fly — no roico of mercy forewarned me in my 
dreams of the trials that were just at liand. 

Tlie next day there was a great pageant in Wash- 
ington. Tlie roar of cannon and the tolling of hells 
tilled the air, while many houses Vv'ere shrouded with 
crape, and the streets were black with people. As 
the day advanced, the procession made its appear- 
ance, coming slowly through the Avenue, cai'riage 
after carriage, in long succession, while thousands 
npon thousands followed on foot — all moving to the 
sound of meloncholy music. They were bearing the 
dead body of Harrison to the grave. 

From early in the morning, I was constantly in the 
company of Hamilton and Brown. They were the 
only persons I knew in Washington. ' We stood to- 
gether as the funeral pomp ])assed by. I remember 
distinctly how the window glass would break and 
rattle to the ground, after each report of the cann.on 
they vrere iiaingin the burial ground. We went to the 
Capitol, and walked a long time about the grounds. 
In the afternoon, they strolled towards the Presi- 
dent's House, all the time keeping me near to them, 
and pointing out various places of interest. As yet, 
I had seen nothing of the circus. In fact, 1 had 
thought of it but little, if at all, amidst the excite- 
ment of the day. 

2lj friends, several times during the afternoon, en- 
tered drinking saloons, and called for licpior. They 
were by no means in the habit, however, so far as T 


know tht'iii, fif iti(liili;iiif;- t(^ excess. On tliose occa- 
sii:>ns, alter serving- themselves, lliey would i)()ur out 
a ylass and hand it to ine. I did not hecoinc intoxi- 
cated, as may l;e inferred from uhat suhsetjueutly 
ocenrrcil. 'inwards eveniiii!-, and soon after parta- 
kinji; of one of these potations, I beg-an to experience 
most unpleasant sensations. I felt extn-mely ill. IMy 
head commenced achini:; — -a dull, heavy ]»ain, inex- 
])ressil)ly disa<j;Teeahle. ^\t the snj>})er table, I was 
without appetite; the si^-ht and ilavor of food was 
nauseous. Al)out dark the saiuc servant conducted 
me to the room I had occuj)ied the })revious uii;-ht. 
Jh-own and Hamilton advised me to retire, connnise- 
ratin^' me kindly, and expressini;- hopes that I would ho 
l)etter in the morninf;, Divestinu' myself of coat and 
boots merely, T threw myself upon the beil. It was 
impossible to slee}). The i)aiu in my head continued 
to increase, until it became almost unbearable. In a 
short time I became thirsty. ]\[y li])S were parched. 
I could thiidv of nothing but Avater — of lakes and 
flowing rivers, of l)rooks where I had stooped to 
drink, and of the dri])ping bucket, rising with its cool 
and overflowing nectar, from the bottom of the well. 
Towards midnight, as near as I could judge, I arose, 
niud)Ie longer to bear such intensity of thii-st. I 
was a stranger in the liouse, and knew nr)thing of its 
apartments. There was no one up, as I could observe. 
Ciroping about at random, I knew not where, I found 
the way at last to a kitchen in the basement. Two 
or three colored servants were moving through it, one 


of M'lioni, a woHiaii, g'avo nic two ^-lasses of water. 
It alforded momentary relief. Init by tlie time I had 
roaelied my room a;;';un. the same l)uriiiug desire of 
drink, the same tormenting thirst, had again returned. 
It was even more torturing than before, as was also 
the wild pain in my head, if such a thing could be. 
I was in sore distress — in most excruciating agony ! 
I seemed to stand on the brink of madness ! The 
memory of that night of horrible sutferiug will fol- 
low me to the grave. 

In the course of an hour or more after my return 
from the kitchen, I was conscious of some one enter- 
ing my room. There seemed to be several ^ — -a ming- 
ling of various voices, — l)ut liovr many, or who 
they were, I cannot tell. ^Vhether Brown and Hamil- 
ton were anrong them, is a merematter of conjecture. 
I only I'emember, with any degree of distinctness, 
that I was told it was necessary to go to a physician 
and procure medicine, and that pulling on my boots, 
without coat or hat, I fullowed tiieni through a lung 
passage-way, or alley, into the open street. It ran 
out at right angles from Pennsylvania Aveune. On 
the opposite side there was alight burning in a win- 
dow. My impression is there were then three per- 
sons with me, but it is altogetlier indelinite and 
vague, and like the memc^ry of a painful dream. 
Going towards the light, which I imagined proceed- 
ed from a physician's office, and which seemed tore- 
cede as I advanced, is the last glimmering recollec- 
tion I can now recall. From that moment I was 

33 t'.vel\t; ykap.s a slaa'e. 

in<oiHil)li\ irii'.vloiiL!: I reniaiiRMl in that condition — • 
^vla't!n.'^ only that iii^^'ht, or many days and niii-hts — • 
I do not know; 1)nt when C()nseiou.snGss vetnrned, I 
found niysi'lf alone, in utter (hii'kness, and in cliains. 
1'lie ]'ain in my head liad suhsiiU'd in a measure, 
hut I was very taint and weak. I was sitting upon a 
low ])eneh, maile of rou>;'li Itoards. and witliout coat 
or liat. I was iiaiuhcutiech ^\i'ound my ankles alsi. 
were a ])air of lieavy fetters. One end of a chain was 
fastened to a lar^-e rin<j: in the floor, the other to the 
fetters on my ankles. I ti'ied in vain to stand upon 
my feet. AVakini;- from such a ]>ainrul trance, it 
Mas some time before I could collect my thouglits. 
"Whei'e was 1^ AVhat was the meaning- of these 
chains:! AVhoi'e were Brov.-n and Hamilton:? What 
luid I do!ie to deserve im|)risonmcnt in such a (hm- 
geon i I could not compi'eliend. Tliere was a blank 
of some indeiinite period, preceding my awakening 
in tliat lonely place, the events of which the utmost 
stretcli of memory was unable to recall. I listened 
intently for some sign or sound of life, l)ut nothing 
broke tlie oppressive silence, save the cliidving of my 
cliain<, ^\■hene\■l'r I ehauced to move. I s])o]ce aloud, 
but the sound of my voice startled me. 1 felt of my 
]^o(dvets, so far-iis the fetters would aUow — far enough, 
indee<l, to ascertain that I liad not only been robbed 
of liberty, Ijut that my nutney and free pai)ers were 
also gone ! Then did the idea begin to 1)reak upon 
my mind, at first dim and confused, that I had been 
kidnapped. But that I thought ^vas incredible. 


Tliere must luivc Leen some misap])reliension — some 
Tinfortunato mistake. It could not l»e tliat a free 
citizen oi" Xe\v-\')!"k, Wiio Iiad wri:in<j;cd no man, nor 
violated ai'.v law, should be dealt with thus inhumanly. 
The more 1 contemplated my situation, however, the 
more I l)ecame contirmed in my suspicions. It was a 
desohite thoui^'lit, indeed. I felt tliere was no trustor 
mercy in unfeeling nuin ; and c<)mmondini;' inyself to 
the God of the oppressed, Ijowed my head upon my 
fettered hands, and wept most bitterly. 








Stnn-: three liours elapsed, during "svliieh time I re- 
mained seated on the low bench, absorbed in jniinful 
meditations. At length I heard the crowing of a 
cock, and soon a distant rumbling sound, as of car- 
riages hurrying thnnigh the streets, came to my ears, 
and I knew that it was day. No ray of light, how- 
ever, penetrated my prison. Finally, I heard foot- 
steps immediately overhead, as of some one walking 
to and fro. It occurred to me then that I must Ijc 
in an underground ai)artment, and the damp, mouldy 
odoi-s of the })lace confirmed the supposition. The 
noise above continued for at least an hour, when, 
at last, I heard footsteps approaching from without. 
A key rattled in the lock — a strong door swung back 
upon its hinges, admitting a Hood of light, and two 
men entered and stood l)efore mo. One of them Avas 
a large, powerful man, forty years of age, perhaps, 


■\vitli (lark, clicshint-col(5red liaii", slightly interspersed 
Avitb gray. His tace was full, liis complexion flusli, 
liis features grossly coarse, expressive of notliing but 
cruelty and cunning. He was al>out five feet ten 
inches liigli, of full habit, and, without prejudice, I 
must be allowed to say, was a num whose whole ap- 
pearance was sinister and repugnant. His name was 
James II. Burch, as I learned afterwards — a well- 
known slave-dealer in Washington ; and then, or late- 
ly, connected in business, as a partner, with Tlieoj^hi- 
lus Freeman, of ISTew-Orleans. The person who 
accompanied him was a simple lackey, named Ebe- 
nezer luulljui-n, who acted merely in the capacity of 
turnkey. Both of these men still live in Washington, 
or did, at the time of my return through that city 
from slavery in January last. 

The light admitted through the open door enabled 
me to observe the room in which I was confined. It 
was about twelve feet srpiare^ — the .walls of solid ma- 
sonry. The floor was of heavy j)lank. There was 
one small window, crossed with great iron bars, with 
an outside shutter, securely fastened. 

An iron-bound door led into an adjoining cell, or 
vault, wholly destitute of windows, or any means of 
admitting light. The furniture of the room in which 
I was, consisted of the wooden bench on wdiichi sat, 
an old-fashioned, dirty box stove, and besides these, 
in either cell, thei'c was neither bed, nor blanket, nov 
any other thing whatever. The door, througli which 

42 T^v^•:LVE ye.vrs a sla\'t:. 

]>urcli ami JRa<ll)uni entered, led tlirougli a small 
inissaiiv, np a iliiilit" oi' steps into a yard, surrouiuled 
l>y a briek wall ten or twelve feet lii,u"1i, iuimediately 
ill rear of a Imildin:^ of the «aiuc Avidth as itself. 
The yard extended rearward from the house ahout 
thirty feet. In one part of the Avail there Avas a 
stronijlv irc^ned door, 0]>eninu^ into a narrow, covered 
]iassai^e, leadin;;; ahmij; one side of the house iiito the 
street. The doom of the erdored man, upon wliom 
the door leadini;: out of that narnnv^ passaii-e closed, 
was sealed. The top of tlie wall sujiported one end 
of a roof, Avliich ascended inwards, formini;- a kind of 
open shed. Underneath the roof tliere was a crazy 
loft all round, -where slaves, if so dis])osed, mii;'ht 
sleep at niu-ht, or in inclement v/eather seek shelter 
from tlie storm. It was like a farmer's bai-nyaril in 
most res})ects, save it was so con.structe<l that the out- 
side world could never see the human cattle that were 
liei'ded there. 

The build ini:; to -wliich the yard was attached, was 
two stories hig'h, frontin!jj on one of the jiublic streets 
of AVashini::ton. Its outside presented only the ap- 
pearance of a quiet ])rivate residence. A stranger 
looking at it, would never have dreamed of its exe- 
crable uses. Strange as it may seem, within jtlain 
sight of this same house, looking down iVom its com- 
mandlng height u})ou it, M'as the Ca])itol. The voices 
(•f patriotic repi'escntatives boasting of freedom and 
equality, and the rattling of the poor slave's chains, 

as3::kt inr freedom. 43 

almost comininglod. A slave pen within the very 
sliadow of the Capitol! 

Such is a correct description as it was in 1811, of 
Williams' slave pen in Washington, in one of the cel- 
lars of which I fonnd myself so nnaccountal>ly con- 

" Well, my boy, how do you feel no'.v f said 
Burcli, as he entered through the open door. I re- 
plied that I was sick, and inquired the cause of my 
imprisonment. He answered that I was his slave — 
that he had bought me, and that he was about to send 
me to Xew-Orleans. I asserted, aloud and boldly, 
that I was a free man — a resident of Saratoga, where 
I had a wife and children, who were also free, and 
that my name was iSTorthup. I complained bitterly 
of the strange treatment I had received, and threat- 
ened, upon my liberation, to have satisfaction for the 
wrong. He denied that I was free, and with an em- 
phatic oath, declared that I came from Georgia. 
Again and again I asserted I was no man's slave, and 
insisted upon his taking oil my chains at once. He 
endeavored to hush me, as if he feared my voice 
would be overheard. But I would not bo silent, and 
denounced the authors of my imprisonment, Avhoever 
they might be, as unmitigated villains. Finding he 
coukl not quiet me, he flew into a towering passion. 
With blasphemous oaths, he called me a black liar, a 
runaway from Georgia, and every other profane and 



vulgar epithet that the most indecent fancy could 

During tliis time Iia(ll)uni was standing silently 
hy. J lis l)usiness was, to oversee this human, or 
rather inhuman stahle, receiving slaves, feeding and 
whii)ping them, at the rate of two shillings a liead 
l)er day. Turning to him, Burch ordered the paddle 
and cat-o'-ninetails to l)e hrought in. lie disap])ear- 
ed, and in a few moments returned with these in- 
struments of torture. The paddle, as it is termed in 
slave-beating parlance, or at least the one with which I 
first became acquainted, and < >\' which I now sj)eak, was 
a piece of hard-wood board, eighteen or twenty inches 
long, moulded to the shape of an old-fashioned pudding 
stick, or ordinary oar. The flattened portion, which 
was abiuit the size in circumference of two open 
hands, was bored with a small auger in numerous 
pdaces. The cat was a large rope of many strands — • 
the strands unraveled, and a knot tied at the extrem- 
ity of each. 

As soon as these formidable whi]:»s appeared, I Avas 
seized by both of them, and roughly divested of my 
clothing. ]\ry feet, as has been stated, were fastened 
to the lloor. Drawing me over the bench, face down- 
wards, liadburn placed his heavy foot upon the fet- 
ters, between my wrists, holding them painfully to tlie 
floor. With the paddle, Ihirch commenced beating 
me. Bliiw after l)l<nv was intiicted npon my naked 
body. When his imrclcnting arm grew tired, ho 

tiip: wiiipriNO. 45 - 

stopped and asked if I still insisted I was a free man. 
I did insist npon it, and then tlie blows were renewed, 
faster and more energetically, if possible, than before. 
Wlien again tired, lie would repeat the same (piestion, 
and receiving the same answer, continue his cruel 
labor. All this time, the incarnate devil was utter- 
ing most fiendish oaths. At length the paddle Ijroke, 
leaving the useless handle in his hand. iStill I would 
not yield. All his brutal blows could not force from 
my li})s the foul lie that I was a slave. Casting mad- 
ly on the floor the handle of the broken paddle, ho 
seized the rope. This was far more painful than the 
other. I struggled with all my power, but it was in 
vain. I prayed for mercy, Init my prayer was only 
answered with imprecations and with stripes. I 
thought I mnst die beneath the lashes of the accursed 
brute. Even now the flesh crawls npon my bones, as 
I recall the scene. I was all on lire. My suiferings 
I can compare to nothing else than the burning ago- 
nies of hell ! 

At last I became silent to his repeated rpTCstions. 
I would make no reply. In fact, I was becoming al- 
most nnable to speak. Still he plied the lash without 
stint upon my poor l)ody, until it seemed that the 
lacerated flesh was stripped from my l)ones at every 
stroke. A man with a particle of mercy in his soul 
would not have beaten even a dog so cruelly. At 
length Eadbnrn said that it was useless to whip 
me any more — that I would be sore enough. There- 
upon, Burch desisted, saying, with an admonitory 


shake f)f liis fist in my face, and liissing the words 
throu^li liis lina-set teeth, that if ever I (hired to 
utter a^^aiu tluit I was entitle*! to my freedom, that I 
]i;ul hi.'L'n ki(hia})i)ed, or any thing Avhatever of the 
kiiuh tlie eastigation I liad just received was nothing 
in ciiinj)arison with what wouM f<jll<>V\'. lie swore 
tliat he W(»uhl either cunnner or kill me. AVith these 
consolatory words, the fetters were taken from my 
•wrists, my feet still remaining fastened to the ring; 
the shutter of the little Ijarred window, which had 
heen opened, was again closed, and going out, lock- 
ing the grL-at door behind them, I was left in dark- 
ness as l)efore. 

In an hour, perhaps two, my heart leaped to my 
thi"i>at, as the key rattled in the door again. I, who 
had heen s > lone\v, and Avho liad longe<I so ar- 
dently to see some one, I cared not who, now sliud- 
dered at tlie thought of man's appniach. A human 
face v/as fuarful to me, especially a white one. liad- 
hurn entered, Lringing with liim, on a tin ])late, a 
l)ieee of t-liriveled fried pork, a slice of bread and a 
cup of water. He asked me how I felt, and remark- 
ed that I had received a pretty severe flogging, lie 
renntnstrated with me against the i>ropriety of as- 
serting my freedom. In rather a patronizing and 
confidential manner, he gave it to me as his advice, 
that the less I said on that subject the better it wnuld 
Le for me. The man e\idently endeavored toap])ear 
kind — whether touched at the sight of my sad condi- 
tion, or with the view of silencing, on my part, any 

THE wTTirriNG. • 47 

furtlier expression of rny rights, it is not necessary 
now to conjectui'e. lie unlocked tlie fetters from nij 
ankles, opened'tlie shutters of tlie little window, and 
departed, leaving me again alone. 

By this time [ liad l)ecomc stiiF and sore; my 
body v\'as covered ^\itli l)]!sters, and it. was with great 
]iain and dithcnlty tluit I could move. From the 
window I could observe iiothing but the roof resting 
on the adjacent wall. At night I laid down upon the 
damp, hard ilooi*, without any pillow or covering 
whatever. Punctually, twice a day, Eadburn came 
in, with his pork, and bread, and water. I had but 
little appetite, though I A\-as tormented with contin- 
ual thirst. My woinids would not perinit mo to re- 
main but a few minutes in any one position ; so, sit- 
ting, or shmding, or moving slowly round, I passed 
tlie days and nights. I was heart sick and discour- 
aged. Thoughts of my family, of my v,-ife and chil- 
dren, continually occupied my mind. When sleep 
overpowered me I dreamed of them — dreamed I was 
again in Saratoga — that I could see their faces, and 
liear their voices calling me. Awakening fr-om the 
pleasant ])hantasms of sleep to the bitter realities 
around me, I could but groan and weep. Still my 
spirit not broken. I indulged the antici})ation of 
escape, and that speedily. It v/as impossible, 1 rea- 
soned, that men could l)e so unjust as to detain me as 
a slave, when the truth of my case was known. 
Burch, ascertaining I was no runaway from Georgia, 
would certainly let me iro. TliouiJ-h sus])icions of 



Prown and ITainilton ■vvcre not mifreqiicnt, I could 
not reconcile niyself to tlie idea that they were in- 
strumental to my imprisonment. Surely they would 
seek me out — tliey would deliver me i'rom thraldom. 
AhisI I had mtt tlien learned the measure of " num's 
iidnnna)iity to man," nor to what limilless extent of 
wickedness he will go fir the love of <z;ain. 

In the course of several days the outer door was 
thrown open, allowing me the liberty of the yard. 
There I f nuul three slaves' — one of them a lad often 
years, the others younsj men of al)out twenty and 
twenty-live. I was not loni;- ju lornuiii;- an acquaint- 
ance, and Icarnini^' their names and the particulars of 
their history. 

The eldest was a colored man named Clemens Tiay. 
He had lived in AVashington ; had driven a hack, and 
worked in a livery stable there f>r a long time. He 
was very intelligent, and fully comj^rehended his sit- 
uation. Tlie thought of going soutli overwhelmed 
him with grief. Lurch had purchased him a few 
days before, and had placed him thereuntil such time 
as he was ready to send him to the Xew-Orleans nuir- 
ket. From him I learned for the first time that I was 
in AVilliam's Slave Pen, a place I had never heard of 
]>reviously. lie descril)ed to nie the uses for which 
it was designed. I repeated to him the particulars of 
my unhappy story, but he could only give me the 
consolation of his sympathy. He also advised me to 
be silent henceforth on the subject of my freedom ; 
for, knowing the character of Burch, he assured me 

KAY, willia:\is axd kaxdall. 49 

t1iat it would only be attended v.ith renewed wliip- 
ping. llie next eldest was named John AVillianis. lie 
was raised in Virginia, not I'ar from AV^asliington. 
Burcli liad taken him in payment of a debt, and lie 
constantly entertained the hope that liis master would 
redeem him — a hope that was subsequently realized. 
The lad was a sprightly child, that answered to the 
uame of Randall. Most of the time he was playing 
al)0ut tlie yard, but occasionally v.'ould ci-y, calling 
fitr liis mother, auAl wondering Mdien she would come. 
His mother's abseuce seemed to be the great audonly 
grief iu his little heart. lie was too young to realize 
his condition, and when tlie memory of his mother 
was not in his mind, he amused us with his pleasant 

At night, Ray, Williams, and the boy, slept iu the 
loft of the shed, while I vras locked i^i the cell. Fi- 
nally Ave were each provided with blankets, such as 
are used upon horses — the only bedding I was allow- 
ed to have for twelve years afterwards. Ray and 
Yv^illiams asked me many rpiestions about ISTew-York 
— how colored people were treated there ; how they 
could have homes and families of their own, with none "^T" 
to disturb and oppress them ; and Ray, especially, 
sighed continually for freedom. Such conversations, 
however, were not in the hearing of Burch, or the 
keeper Radburn. Aspirations such as these would 
have brought down the lash upon our backs. 

It is necessary in this narrative, in order to present 
a fidl and truthful statement of all the principal events 
C 1 


in the history of my life, aiul to portray the institu- 
tion of Slavery as I have seen and known it, to speak 
of well-known i)laces, and of ^niany persons Avho are 
yet living. I am, and ahvays was, an entire stranger 
in Washingt(in and its vicinity — aside from J>urch 
and Ivadbnrn, knowing no man there, except as I have 
heard of them throngh my enslaved companions. 
What I am about to say, if false, can he easily con- 

I remained in AVilliams' slave pen about two 
weeks. The night previous to my departure a woman 
was brought in, weeping bitterly, and leading by the 
hand a little child. They were llandairs mother and 
half-sister. On meeting them he was overjoyed, 
clinging to her dress, kissing the child, and exhibit- 
ing every demonstrati(^n of delight. The mother also 
clasped him in her arms, embraced him tenderly, and 
gazed at him fondly through her teare, calling him by 
many an endearing name. 

Emily, the child, was seven or eight years old, of 
light complexion, and with a face of admirable beau- 
ty. Her hair fell in curls around her neck, Avhilethe 
style and richness of her dress, and tlie neatness of 
her whole appearance indicated she had been brought 
up in the midst of wealth. She Avas a sweet child 
indeed. The woman also was arrayed in silk, with 
rings upon her fingers, and golden ornaments sus- 
pended from her ears. Her air and manners, the cor- 
rectness and proj^riety of her language — all showed, 
evideutly, that she had sometime stood above the 

srATi:i:xAL soukows. 51 

c<">iiini()n level of a shive. She seeiueJ to be amazed 
at tiiuling lier^eit' in sncli a place as that. It was 
]ilaiiily a sudden and unexpected turn ot'iortune that 
Iiad brought her there. Filling the air with hercom- 
])lainings, she was hustled, with the chihiren and mj- 
se't', into the cell. Language can couN-ey but an inad- 
C'iuate impression of the lamentations to which she 
ga\"e incessant utterance. Throwing herself upon the 
ilooi', and encircling the children in her arms, she 
prtured forth such touching words as only maternal 
love and kindness can suggest. They nestled closely 
to her, as if there only was there any safety or pro- 
tection. At last they slept, their heads resting npon 
her lap. Vriiile they slumbered, she smoothed the 
hair ba(dc from their little foreheads, and talked to 
them all night long. She called them her darlings — • 
her sweet babes — poor innocent things, that knew 
not the misery they were destined to endure. Soon 
they would have no mother to comfort them — they 
would l)e taken from her. AVhat would become of 
them ? Oh I she could not live av^'ay from her little 
Emmy and her dear boy. They had always been 
good cliildren, and had such loving wjiys. It would 
Ijreak lier heart, God knew, she said, if they were ta- 
ken from her ; and yet she knew they meant to sell 
them, and, may be, they would be separated, and 
could never see each other any more. It was enough 
to melt a heart of stone to listen to the pitiful ex- 
X)ressions of that desolate and distracted mother. Iler 


name "was Eliza ; and this was tlie steiy of her life, as 
islie afterwards related it : 

(She Avas the slave of Elisha Eerry, a rich man, liv- 
inu' in tlu' nciu-hlxirhood of AVashini;-ton, She was 
1)1 ini, I thiidv she said, on his plantation. Years be- 
fore, he had fallen into dissipated habits, and quarrel- 
ed with his wife. In fact, soon after the birth of 
JJandall, they separated. Lt'avinghis wife and {laugh- 
ter in the house they had always occupied, he erected 
a new one near by, on the estate. Into this house he 
brought Eliza ; and, on condition of her living with 
him, she and her children were to be emancipated. 
She resided M'itli him there nine years, M'ith servants 
to attend npon her, and provided with every comfort 
and luxury of life. Emily was his chiltl I Einally, 
her young mistress, who had always I'enuiined with 
lier mother at the homestead, nuirried a Mr. Jacob 
l>roolvs. At length, for some cause, (as I gathered 
from her relation.) beyond JJerry's control, a division 
of his property was nuide. She and her children fell 
to the share of 'Mv. Erooks. During the nine years 
she had lived with Eerry, in consecpience of the posi- 
tion she "\\as compelled to occupy, she and Emily had 
become the oliject of Mrs. J>eriT aiul her daughter's 
hatred and dislike. E^ii'i'v himself she re])resented as 
a man of naturally a kind heart, who always ]<romis- 
ed her that she should have her freedom, and who, 
she had no doubt, would grant it to her then, if it 
were only in his power. As soon as they thus came 


into flic po?!sc?;sion and control of tlie danglitcr, it be- 
came veiy manifest tliej wmdd not live long togetbcv. 
Tlie sight of Eliza seemed to be odi( »ns to Mrs. Brooks ; 
neither could slie bear to iook npou tbc cluld, balf- 
sister, a;id lieantiful as she was ! 

Tlic day slie was led into tlie pen, Brooks had 
bronght her from the estate into the city, nnder pre- 
tence that the time had come when her free papers 
were to be executed, in fuliillment of lier master's, 
promise. Elated at the prospect of immediate liber- 
ty, she decked herself and little Einmy in their best 
ap})arel, and accompanied him vrith a joyful heart. 
On their arrival in the city, instead of Ijeing baptized 
into the family of freemen, slie was delivered to the 
trader Burch. The paper that Avas executed was a 
bill of sale. The hope of years Vv'as blasted in a mo- 
ment. From the bight of most exulting happiness 
to the r.tmost deptlis of wretchedness, she had that 
day descended. ISo wonder that slu; we[)t, and filled 
the pen with Availings and expressions of heart-rend- 
ing woe. 

Eliza is now dead. Yiw up the Bed Biver, where 
it pours its waters sluggishly through ihe unhealthy 
low lands of Louisiana, she rests in the grave at last — ■ 
the only resting place of the poor sla^'e ! How all her 
fears were realized — how she mourned day and night, 
and never would be comforted- — liow, as she predict- 
ed, her heart did indeed break, with the burden of 
maternal sorrow, will be seen as the narrative pro- 


Eliza's soukhw.s — I'i;ki'aiiatiun- to kmijauk — I'RIVia' TiinovGH the 

TON — ci.KM r.AV — Tin: uhkaki-ast hn thi; siiamu; — Tin; iiai-I'V 

BIUD.S AlH'A I T.KKK Fr.i;i'i:r.l( KSIUlKill AltlllVAL IX UK !1 VI IN I) 




At intervals during the first niolit of Eliza's incar- 
ceration in the pen, she complained bitterly of Jacolj 
nh'ooh's, her vouno- mistress' hushand. Siie declared 
that had she ])L'im awai'c of the decej)tion he intended 
t(^ practice n})on her, he never Avoidd have hronght 
lier there alive. They had chosen tlie opportunity of 
getting her away when INIaster Berry was ahsentfroni 
the i>lantation. IFe had always been kind to her. 
She wished that she could see him ; but she knew that 
even he Avas imable now to rescue her. Then would 
slie commence weejiing again — ki>siiig the sleeping 
children — talking lirst to one, then to the other, as 
they lay in their unc(^nscious slumbei's, with their 
heads upon her hip. So wore the long night away ; 
and when the morning dawned, and night had come 
again, still she kept mourning on, and would not be 


About midniglit following, the cell door oj^ened, 
and Biircli and jAadbnrn entered, with lanterns in 
tlieir hand^. Bui-cIk M-ith an oath, ordered ns to roll 
Tip onr blankets withont delay, and get ready to go 
on board t]ie boat. He swore we would be left unless 
we hurried fast. He aroused tlie chihlren from their 
slumbers v»ilii a rougli shake, and said tliey were 
d — d sleepy, it appeared. Going out into the yard, 
lie called Clem Ray, ordering him to leave the loft 
and come into the cell, and bring his blanket with 
him. "When Clem appeared, he placed us side by 
side, and fastened us together with hand-cuffs — my 
left hand to his right. Jolin AVilliams had been ta- 
ken out a day or two before, his master having 
redeemed him, greatly to his delight. Clem and I 
were ordered to march, Eliza and the children fol- 
lowing. IVe were conducted into the yard, from 
thence into the covered passage, and up a flight of 
steps through a side door into the upper room, where 
I had heard the walking to and fro. Its furniture was 
a stove, a few old chairs, and a long table, covered 
with papers. It was a white-washed room, without 
any carpet on the floor, and seemed a sort of office. 
By one of the v.dndows, I remember, hung a rusty 
sword, Vi'hich attracted my attention. Burch's trunk 
was there. In obedience to his orders, I took hold of 
one of its handles with my unfettered hand, while he 
taking hold of the other, we proceeded out of the 
front door into tlie street in the same order as we had 
left the cell. 


It T\-a> a dark iiii;-lit. All was quiet. I could sec 
lights, or the reth'ction of them, over towanls reim- 
sylvaiiia Avenue, hut there was no one, not even a 
straggler, to he seen. I was almost resolved to at- 
tempt to l)reak away. Had I not heen hand-cuffed 
the attemj^t would certainly have heen made, what- 
ever consequence might liave followed. liadburn 
was in the re:i!', carrying a large stick, and hurrying 
up the children as last as the little ones could walk. 
So we passed, hand-cuffed and in silence, through the 
streets of Washington — through the Capital of a na- 
tion, whose theory of government, we are told, rests 
on the foundation of man's inalienahle right to life, 
LIBERTY, and the pursuit of hax)i)iness ! Hail ! Co- 
lumhia, liappy land, indeed ! 

Eeachiug the steanujoat, we were cpiickly hustled 
into the lu)ld, among harrels and hoxes of freight. A 
colored servant hrought a Hglit, the hell rung, and 
soon the vessel started down the Potomac, carrying 
us we knew not where. Tlie hell tolled as we passed 
the toml) of Washington ! Burch, no douht, with un- 
covered head, howed reverently hefoi-o the sacred ash- 
es of the man wlio devoted his illustrious life to the 
liherty of his country. 

Kone of us sle})t that night hut Ihindall and little 
Emmy. For tlie lirst time Clem Kay was wholly 
overcome. To him the idea of going south was ter- 
rible in the extreme. He was leaving the friends and 
associations of his youth — every thing that was dear 
and precious to his heart — in all prohability never 


to return. lie and. Eliza mingled their tears together, 
bemoaning their cruel f;ite. For my own part, diffi- 
cult as it Avas, I endeavored to keep up my spirit^^. I 
resolved in mj mind a hundred plans of escape, and 
fully determined to make the attempt the first despe- 
rate chance tliat offered. I had hy this time hecomo 
satisfied, however, that my true policy was to say no- 
thing further on the suhject of my has'ing Leen horn a 
freeman. It would but expose me to mal-treatmeut, 
and diminish the ciumces of liberation. 

After sunrise in the morning we were called up ou 
deck to breakfast. Burch took our hand-cuffs off, and 
we sat down to table. lie asked Eliza if she would 
take a dram. She declined, tharddng liim politely. 
During the meal we Avere all silent — not a word pass- 
ed between us. A mulatto woman who served at ta- 
ble seemed to take an interest in our 1:)ehalf — told us 
to cheer up, and nr»t to be so cast down. Breakfast 
over, the hand-cuffs were restored, and Burch ordered 
us out on the stern deck. Wc sat down together ou 
some boxes, still sayirig nothing in Barch's presence. 
Occasionally a passenger would walk out to where 
we were, look at us for a w^hile, then silently return. 

It was a very pleasant morning. Tlie fields along 
the river were covered with verdure, far in advance 
of Avhat I had been accnistomed to see at that seasoji 
of the year. The sun shone out warmly ; the birds 
were si]iging in the trees. The happy birds — I en- 
vied them. I wished for wings like them, that I 
might cleave the air t(^ where my birdlings waited 


vainly for their father's coming, in the cooler region 
of the Xorth. 

In the forenoon the steamer reached Aqiiia Creek. 
There the passengers took stages — Burch and his live 
slaves occn]>ying one exclusively. He hinghed with 
the children, and at one stop])ing place ■went so far as 
to purchase them a jiiecc of gingerhread. He told 
me to hold nj) my head and louk smart. That I 
might, perhajts, get a good master if I Lehaved my- 
self I made him no rejily. His face M'as hateful to 
me, and 1 ci^uld not bear to lor>k upon it. I sat in 
the corner, cherishing in my heart the hope, nut yet 
extinct, of some day meeting the tyrant on the soil of 
my native State. 

At Fredericks! >urgh Ave were transi'ei-i-ed from the 
stage coach to a car, and l)ef >re dark arrived in Rich- 
mond, the chief city of Virginia. At this city vro 
were taken from the cars, and driven through the 
street to a slave pen, hetween the railroad depot and 
the river, kept by a Mr. Goodin. This pen is similar 
to AYilliams' in "Washington, except it is somewhat 
larger; and besides, there were two small houses 
standing at opjiosite corners within the yard. These 
houses are susually found within sla\'e yards, being- 
used as rooms for the examination of human chattels 
by purchasers before concluding a bargain. Un- 
soundness in a slave, as well as in a hoi-se, detracts 
materially from his value. If no warranty is given, 
a close examination is a matter of particular impor- 
tance to the negro jockey. 


"We were met at the door of Goodin's yard Ijy tliat 
geutleiiian himself — a short, fat man, Avith a round, 
phmip face, Idack hair ami whiskers, and a complex- 
ion almost as dark as some of Ins oA^ni negroes. lie 
had a hard, stern look, and was perhaps ahont fifty 
years of age. Burcli and he met Avithgrcnit cordiali- 
ty. They Avere evidently C'hl friends. tShaking each 
other warmly by the hand, Burcli remarked he liad 
brought some company, inrpiired at what time the 
brig would leave, and was answered that it would 
probably leave tlie next day at such an hour. Good- 
in then turned to me, took hold of my arm, turned 
me partly round, looked at me sharply with the air of 
one who considered himself a good judge of property, 
and as if estimating in his own mind about how 
much I was worth. 

'" Well, boy, where did you come from V 

Forgetting myself, for a moment, I answered, 
" From Xew-Yr)rk." 

'• Xew-York I II — -1 ! what have you been doing 
up there i' was his astonished interrogatory. 

Observing Burcli at this moment looking at me with 
an angry expression that conveyed a meaning it was 
not difficult to understand, I immediately said, " O, I 
have only been up that way a piece,'" in a manner 
intended to imply that although I might have been as 
far as Xew-York, yet I wished it distinctly understood 
that I did not belong to that free State, nor to any 

Goodin then turned to Clem, and then to Eliza and 


tlio C'liililrcn, exainiiiin<x tlioui sevcranv, and askinrj 
A'arioiis <|iu'stii>iis. IIo was ])lc'ased Avith Emily, as 
was every one who saw tlic child's sweet connteuanco. 
She Avas iii)t as tidy as when I iirst beheld her; her 
hair was now somewhat disheveled ; hnt throuii'h its 
unkempt and soft profusion there still beamed a little 
face of most surpassini;- loveliness. " Altoo-ether we 
M'ere a fair lot — a devilish <»-ood lot," lie said, enforc- 
ini;" that oj)inion with more than one emphatic adjec- 
tive not ibnnd in the Christian vocabnlary. Thereup- 
on we passed into the yard, (^uite a nnnd)er of 
slaves, :is many as thirty I should say, were moving 
about, or sitting on benches under the shed. They 
were all cleanly dressed — the men with hats, the wo- 
men with handkerchiefs tied about their lieads. 

Ihirch anil (iiioilin, after separating from ns, walk- 
ed n]) the ste]>s at the back part of the main building, 
and sat down npon tlie door sill. They entei-ed into 
ci>nversatio;i, but the subject of it I could not heai*. 
J^resently Ihirch came down into the yard, unfettered 
nie, and Km! uie into one of the small houses. 

'• Yon told that man you came from iXew-York," 
paid lie. 

r replied, " I told him I had been up as far as l^ew- 
York, to be sure, but did not tell him I belonged 
there, nor that I was a freeman. I meant no harm at 
all. Master Burch. I Avould not ha\e said it had I 

lie looked at me a moment as if he was ready to 
devour me, then turniiiLi: round went out. In a few 


inutos lie retiinu'd, '' If ever I licar you say a word 
about Xew-York, or about your freedoui, I will be the 
death of you — I will kill you; you may rely on 
tliat," lie ejaculated fiercely. 

I doubt not lie understood then better than I did, 
the danger and the penalty of selling a free man into 
slayery. He i'elt the necessity of closing my mouth 
against the crime he knew he was committing. Of 
course, my life would not have weighed a feather, in 
any emergency rtTjuiring such a siicrilice. Undoubt- 
edly, he meant precisely what he said. 

Under the shed on one side of the yard, there was 
constructed a rough tal»le, while overhead were sleep- 
ing lofts — the same as in tlie pen at AVashington. Af- 
ter partaking at this taljle of our supper of pork and 
bread, I was hand-cuffed to a large yellow man, quite 
stout and fleshy, with a countenance expressive of 
the utmost melancholy. He was a man of intelli- 
gence and information. Chained together, it was not 
long before we became acquainted with each other's 
history. His name was Eobert. Like myself, he 
had been born free, and had a wife and two chil- 
dren in Cincinnati. He said he had come south with 
two men, who had hircil him in the city of his resi- 
dence. Without free papers, he had been seized at 
Fredericksburgh, placed in confinement, and beaten 
until he had learned, as I had, the necessity and the 
policy of silence. He had been in Goodin's pen 
about three weeks. To this man I became much 
attached. We coidd sympathize with, and understand 


each other. It was with tears and a heavy heart, 
not many days suljsequently, that I saw him die, and 
looked lor the hist time u})on liis lifeless form! 

ItDherc and my sell', with Clem, Eliza and her chil- 
dren, slept that night n})on our Idankets, in one of the 
small houses in the yard. There were four others, all 
from the same iihuitation, Avho had been sold, and 
were now on tlieir way south, who also occupied it 
Avith us. David and his wife, Car(»line, both mulat- 
toes, Avere exceedini2,-ly affected. They dreaded the 
thought of being |)ut into the cane and cotton fields; 
but their greatest source of anxiety Avas the apprehen- 
sion of being separated. Mary, a tall, lithe girl, of a 
most jetty black, was listless and apparently indiffer- 
ent. Like many of the class, she scarcely knew there 
was such a word as freedom. Brought np in the ig- 
norance of a brute, she possessed but little more than 
a brute's intelligence. She was one of those, and 
there are very many, who fear nothing but their mas- 
ter's lash, and know no further duty than to obey his 
voice. The other was Lethe. She was of an entirely 
dilTerent character. Slie had long, straight hair, and 
bore more the appearance of an Lidian than a negro 
woman. She had sharp and spiteful eyes, and con- 
tinually gave utterance to the language of hatred 
an<l i-evenge. Her husband had been sold. She 
knew not where she was. An exchange of masters, 
she was sure, could not be for the worse. She cared 
not whither they might carry her. Pointing to the 
fccars upon hur faccj the desperate creature wished 


tliat she might sec the day when she coiikl wipe thcni 
otf in some man's blood ! 

While we were thus learning the history of each 
other's Avretchedness, Eliza was seated in a corner by 
herself, singing hymns and praying for her children. 
Wearied from the loss of so mnch sleep, I conld. no 
longer bear np against the advances of that " sweet 
restorer," and laying down by the side of llobert, on 
the floor, soon forgot my tronbles, and slept nntil the 
dawn of day. 

In the morning, having swept the yard, and. wash- 
ed onrselves, nnder Goodin's snperintendence, we 
w^ere ordered to roll np onr blankets, and make ready 
for the continnance of onr journey. Clem Kay was 
informed that he would go no further, Burch, for some 
cause, having concluded to carry him back to Wash- 
ington. He was much rejoiced. Shaking hands, we 
parted in the slave pen at Richmond, and I have not 
seen him since. But, much to my surprise, since my 
return, I learned that he had escaped from bondage, 
and on his way to the free soil of Canada, lodged one 
night at the house of my brother-in-law in Saratoga, 
informing my family of the place and tlie condition 
in which he left me. 

In the afternoon we \vere drawn up, two abreast, 
Robert and myself in advance, and in this order, driv^- 
en by Burch and Goodin from the yard, through the 
streets of Richmond to the brig Orleans, She was 
a vessel of respectable size, full rigged, and freighted 
principally with tobacco. We were all on. board by 


live o'clock. Burcli bmuL^ht lis eacli a tin cnp and a 
t^jinon. There were forty ol" us in the brig-, bein^-all, 
e\ee})t Clem, that were in {lie pen. 

AVith a small pocket knife that had not heen taken 
from me, I l»eiJ!;an cuttini^ the initials uf my name 
ii])on the tin cup. The others immediately Hocked 
round nie, requestini^ nie to mark theirs in a similar 
manner. In time, I <i;ratilied them all, of which they 
did not appear to be fori;-etful. 

We were all stowed away in tlie hold at nii;-ht, and 
tlie liatch barred doNvn. We laid onljoxes, or where- 
ever there was room enough to stretch our blankets 
on the lloor. 

Burch accompanied iis no farther than Iliclimond, 
returning- from that point to the capital with Clem. 
iNot until the lapse of almost twelve years, to M'it, in 
January last, in the AVashingtou police ollice, did I 
Bct my eyes upon his face again. 

James II. Burch was a shu'e-trader — buying* men, 
■women and children at low prices, and selling them 
at an advance. lie was a speculator in hunum flesh 
— a disreputal)le calling — and so considered at the 
Smith. For the present he disappears from the scenes 
recorded in this narrative, but he "will api>ear again 
before its close, not in the character- of a man-whip- 
ping tyrant, but as an arrested, cringing criminal in 
a court of law, that failed to do him justice. 








After we were all on board, tlie brig Orleans pro- 
ceeded down James River. Passing into Chesapeake 
Bay, we arrived next day opposite the city of I^Tor- 
folk. While lying at anchor, a lighter approached 
us from the town, bringing four more slaves. Frede- 
rick, a boy of eighteen, had been born a slave, as also 
had Henry, who was some years older. They had 
both been house servants in the city. Maria was a 
rather genteel looking colored girl, with a faultless 
form, but ignorant and extremely vain. Tlie idea of 
going to Xew-Orleans was pleasing to her. She en- 
tertained an extravagantly high opinion of her own 
attractions. Assuming a haughty mien, she declared 
to her companions, that immediately on our arrival 
in Xew-Orleans, she had no doubt, some wealthy sin- 
gle gentleman of good taste would purchase her at 
once ! 


But the most prominent of the four, was a man 
named Arthur. As tlie lighter approached, he strug- 
gled stoutly witli Ills keepers. It was with inuhi 
force that he was dragged ahoard the brig, lie pro- 
tested, in a loud voice, against the treatment he was 
receiving, and denumdcd to be released. Ilis face 
Avas swolk'ii, and covered M'ith wounds and bruises, 
and, indeed, one side of it was a complete raw sore. 
He was forced, with all haste, down the hatchway 
into the hold. I caught an outline of his story as he 
was borne struggling along, of which he afterwards 
gave me a more full relation, and it was as follows : 
lie had long resided in the city of Xorfolk, and Avas 
a free num. He had a family living there, and was a 
mason by trade. Having been miusually detained, 
he was returning late one night to his house in the 
suburbs of the city, when he was attacked by a gang 
of persons in an uufreipientcd street. He fouglit 
nntil his strength failed him. Overjjowered at last, 
lie was gagged and bound with ropes, and beaten, 
nntil he became insensible. For several days they 
secreted him in the slave pen at Xorfolk — a very 
common establishment, it appears, in the cities of tho 
South. The night before, he had been taken out and 
put on board the lighter, which, pushing out from 
shore, had awaited our arrival. For some time ho 
continued his protestations, and was altogether irrec- 
oncilable. At length, however, he became silent. 
He sank into a gloomy and thonghtful mood, aiul ap- 
peared to 1)0 counseling with himself. There Avas in 


the man's determined fiicc, sometliing that suggested 
the thought of desperation. 

After leaving jSTorfolk the hand-cuffs were taken 
olF, and during tlie day we were allowed to remain 
on deck. Tlie captain selected Robert as his waiter, 
and I was appointed to superinteiid the cooking de- 
partment, and the distribution of food and water. I 
had three assistants, Jim, Cufiee and Jenny. Jenny's 
business was to prepare the coffee, which consisted of 
corn meal scorched in a kettle, boiled and sweetened 
with molasses. Jim and Cuffee baked the hoe-cake 
and boiled the bacon. 

Standing by a table, formed of a wide board rest- 
ing on the heads of the barrels, I cut and handed to 
each a slice of meat and a " dodger" of the bread, 
and from Jenny's kettle also dipped out for each a 
cup of the coffee. Tlie use of plates was dispensed 
with, and their sable fingers took the place of knives 
and forks. Jim and Cuffee were very demure and 
attentive to business, somewhat inflated with their 
situation as second cooks, and without doubt feeling 
that there was a great responsibility resting on them. 
I was called steward — a name given me by the cap- 

The slaves were fed twice a day, at ten and five 
o'clock — always receiving the same kind and quantity 
of fare, and in the same manner as above described. 
At night we were driven into the hold, and securely 
fastened down. 

Scarcely were we out of sight of land before we 


were nvertalccn liy a violent storm. The l)rig rolled 
and plunged imtil we feared she would go down. 
Sonic were sea-sick, others on their knees praying, 
while sonic were fast liolding to each other, paralyzed 
with fear. The sea-sickness rendered the place of our 
coiitinement loathsome and disgusting. It would 
liave been a happy thing for most of iis — it would 
have saved the agony of many hundred lashes, and 
miserable deaths at last — had the compassionate sea 
snatched iis that day from the clutches of remorseless 
men. The thouglit of Randall and little Emmy sink- 
ing down among the monsters of the deep, is a more 
pleasant contemidation than to think of them as they 
are now, jicrhaps, dragging out lives of unrequited 

"When in sight of the I>ahama Banks, at a place 
called Old Point Comi:)ass, or the Hole in the AVall, 
we were becalmed three days. There was scarcely a 
breath of air. The waters of the gulf presented a 
singularly white appearance, like lime water. 

In the order of events, I come now to the relation 
of an occurrence, which I never call to mind but with 
sensations of regret. I thank God, who has since 
permitted me to escaj)e from the thralldom of slavery, 
that through his merciful interposition I was prevent- 
ed from imbruing my hands in the blood of his crea- 
tures. Let not those who have never been placed in 
like circumstances, judge me harshly. Until they 
have been chained and beaten — until they find them- 
Bclves in the situation I was, borne away from homo 


and laniily to\vavds a land of bondage — let tlieni re- 
frain from sayinii' Avliat tliey wonld not do forlibertj. 
How fiir I Siionld liave been justified in tlie siglit of 
God and man, it is unnecessary now to speculate upon. 
It is enougli to say that I am able to congratulate 
m3-self upon tlie harndess termination of an affair 
whicli threatened, for a time, to be attended with se- 
rious results. 

Towards evening, on the first day of the calm, Ar- 
thur and myself were in the bow of the vessel, seat- 
ed on the windlass. We were conversing together of 
the probable destiny that awaited us, and mourning 
together over our misfortunes. Arthur said, and I 
agreed with him, that death was far less terrible than, 
the living prosj)ect that was before us. For a long 
time we talked of our children, our past lives, and of 
the probabilities of escape. Obtaining possession of 
the brig was suggested by one of us. We discussed 
the possibility of our being able, in such an event, to 
make our way to the harbor of ISTew-York. I knew 
little of the compass ; but the idea of risking the ex- 
periment Avas eagerly entertained. Tlie chances, for 
and against us, in an encounter with the crew, was 
canvassed. Who could be relied upon, and who 
could not, the proper time and manner of the attack, 
were all talked over and over again. From the mo- 
ment the ]dot suggested itself I began to hope. I 
revolved it constantly in my mind. As difficulty af- 
ter difficulty arose, some ready conceit was at hand, 
demonstrating how it could be overcome. While 


others sle]»t, Arthur and I were iiiatiirin<i- our ])lans. 
At loiii^th, witli much caution, liobort was grachially 
maik' ac(|uaintcd with our intentions. lie ai>proved 
of thciu at once, and entered into the conspiracy with 
a zeak)us spirit. There was not another slave we 
dared to trust. ]>rou<j;ht up in fear and ignorance as 
they are, it can scarcely he conceived how servilely 
they will cringe before a white num's look. It was 
not safe to deposit so hold a secret with any of them, 
and Unally we three resolved to take upon ourselves 
alone the fearful responsibility of tlie attempt. 

At night, as has been said, we were driven into tho 
hold, and the hatch barred down. How to reach tho 
deck M'as the first dithcidty that presented itself. On 
the bow of the bi'ig, however, I had observed the 
small 1)oat lying bottom upwards. It occurred to me 
that by secreting ourselves underneath it, we would 
not be missed from the crowd, as they were hun-ied 
down into the liold at night. I was selected to make 
the experiment, in order to satisfy ourselves of its fea- 
sibility. The next evening, accordingly, after supper, 
watching my opportunity, I hastily concealed inyself 
beneath it. Lying close upon the deck, I could see 
wdiat was going on around me, while wholly unper- 
ceived myself In the morning, as they came nj), I 
slipped from my hiding ])lace without being observed. 
The result was entirely satisfactorj'. 

Tlie captain and mate slept in the cabin of the for- 
mer. From Robert, who had frequent occasion, in 
his capacity of waiter, to make observations in that 


quarter, we ascertained the exact position of their 
respective berths. He further informed us that there 
were always two pistols and a cutlass lying on the 
table. The crew's cook slept in the cook galley on 
deck, a sort of vehicle on wheels, that could be mov- 
ed about as convenience required, while the sailors, 
numbering only six, either slept in the forecastle, or 
in hammocks swung among the rigging. 

Finally our arrangements were all conijdeteil. Ar- 
thur and I were to steal silently to the captain's cab- 
in, seize the pistols and cutlass, and as rpiickly as possi- 
ble despatch him and the mate. Robert, with a club, 
was to stand by the door leading from the deck down 
into the cabin, and, in case of necessity, beat l)ack the 
sailors, until we could liurry to his assistance. We 
were to proceed then as circumstances might rerpiire. 
Should the attack Ije so sudden and successful as to 
2:)revent resistance, tlie hatch was to remain barred 
do^^^l ; otherwise the slaves were to be called up, and 
in the crowd, and hurry, and confusion of the time, 
we resolved to regain our liberty or lose our lives. I 
was then to assume the unaccustomed place of pilot, 
and, steering northward, we trusted that some lucky 
wind might bear us to the soil of tr-eedom. 

The mate's name was Biddee, the captain's I can- 
not now recall, though I rarely ever foi'get a name 
once heard. The captain was a small, genteel man, 
erect and prompt, with a proud Ijearing, and looked 
the personification of courage. If he is still living, 
and these pages should chance to meet his eye, he 


■vrill learn a fact connected witli tlio voyap:e of tlio 
brig, from Kichniond to Ncw-Orlcans, in 1811, not 
entered on liis log*-book. 

We were all prepared, and impatiently ■\vaitin12; an 
opportnnity of pntting" our desii>;ns into execution, 
when tliey were frustrated by a sad and unforeseen 
event. Ilobert was taken ill. It was soon announced 
that he bad tlie snuall-pox. lie continued to grow 
worse, and four days previous to our arrival in New- 
Orleans he died. One of the sailors sewed him in his 
blanket, with a large stone from the ballast at his feet, 
and then laying him on a hatchway, and elevating it 
with tackles above the railing, tlie iiumimate body of 
poor Eobert was consigned to the white waters of tho 

"We were all panic-stricken by the appearance of 
the small-pox. The captain ordered lime to be scat- 
tered thruugh the hold, and other prudent precau- 
tions to be taken. The death of Kobert, however, and 
the presence of the malady, oppressed mo sadly, and 
I gazed out over the great waste of waters with a 
sj^irit that was indeed disconsolate. 

An evening or two after Robert's burial, I was 
leaning on the hatchway near the forecastle, full of 
desj)onding thoughts, when a sailor in a kind voice 
asked me why I was so down-hearted. Tlie tone and 
manner of the man assured me, and I answered, be- 
cause I was a freeman, and had been kidnapped. 
lie remarked that it was enough to make any one 
down-hearted, and continued to interrogate me until 


lie learned the particulars of my whole history. He 
■was evidently much interested in my behalf, and, in 
the blunt speech of a sailor, swore he would aid me 
all he could, if it " split his timbers." I recpiested 
him to furnish me pen, ink and paper, in order that I 
miglit v\-rite to some of my friends. He promised to 
obtain them — but how I could use them undiscover- 
ed was a dithcnlty. If I could only get into the fore- 
castle while his watch was off, and the other sailors 
asleep, the thing could be accomplished. The small 
boat instantly occurred to me. He tliought we were 
not far from the Balize, at the mouth of the Mississip- 
pi, and it was necessary that the letter be written 
soon, or the op])ortunity would be lost. Accordingly, 
by arrangement, I managed the next night to secret 
myself again under the long-boat. His watch was oif 
at twelve. I saw him pass into the forecastle, and in 
about an hour followed him. He was nodding over 
a table, half asleep, on which a sickly light was flick- 
ei'ing, and on which also was a pen and sheet of pa- 
per. As I entered he aroused, beckoned me to a seat 
beside him, and pointed to the paper. I directed the 
letter to Henry 13. Xorthup, of Sandy Hill — stating 
that I had been kidnapped, was then on board the 
brig Orleans, bound fur ^Js'ew-Orleans ; that it was 
then impossible for me to conjecture my ultimate des- 
tination, and recpiesting he would take measures to 
rescue me. Tlie letter v»-as sealed and directed, and 
Manning, having read it, promised to deposit it in the 
Kew-Orleans post-office. I hastened back to my placo 



under tlio l(>iii^-l)oat, ami in tlic iiiornini!:, tis llie slaves 
came up ami M'ere walkiiiiz; miiiid, erejjt out uniio- 
ticeil aud min^-led with tlieiu. 

My good friend, Avliose name was Jolm ]\rauning, 
was an l']nu-lis]iman ]>y Lirlli, and a noble-liearted, 
generous sailor as ever walked a deek. lie had lived 
in Bi)Ston — was a tall, well-Luilt man, about twenty- 
four years old, with a lace somewhat pock-marked, 
but full of benevolent expression. 

Xothing to vary the monotony of our daily life oc- 
curred, until we reached Kew-Orleans. On coming 
to the levee, and before the vessel was made fast, I 
saw Manning leap on shore and hurry away into the 
city. As he started oil' he looked back over his shoul- 
der significantly, giving me to understand the object 
of his errand. Presently he returned, and passing 
close by me, hunched me with his elbow, with a pe- 
culiar wink, as much as to say, "it is all right." 

The letter, as I have since learned, reached Sandy 
ITill. Mr. Xorthup visited Albany and laid it before 
Governor Seward, but inasmuch as it gave no definite 
information as to my prol)able locality, it was not, at 
that time, deemed a<lvisal)le to institute measures for 
my liberation. It was concluded to delay, trusting 
that a knowledge of where I was might eventually be 

A happy and touching scene was witnessed imme- 
diately upon our reaching the levee. Just as Man- 
ning left the brig, on his way to the post-oftice, two 
men came up aud called aloud for Arthur. The lat- 


ter, as lie recognized tliein, was almost crazy witli de- 
light. He could liarilly be restrained from leaping 
over the brig's side ; and wlion tliej met soon after, 
he grasped them by the hand, and clung to tlicm a 
long, long time. They were men from Norfolk, who 
had come on to New-Orleans to rescue him. His 
kidnappers, they inf(.>rmed him, had l)een arrested, 
and were then contined in the Xorlblk prison. They 
conyersed a few moments with the captain, and then 
departed with the rejoicing Arthur. 

But in all the crowd that thronged the wharf, there 
was no one Avho knew or cared for me. jSTot one. 
Ko tamiliar yoice greeted my ears, nor was there a 
single face that I had ever seen. Soon Arthur would 
rejoin his family, and haye the satisfaction of seeing 
his wrongs avenged : my family, alas, should I ever 
see them more ? There was a feeling of utter deso- 
lation in my heart, filling it with a despairing and re- 
gretful sense, that I had not gone down with Robert 
to the bottom of the sea. 

Very soon traders and consignees came on board. 
One, a tall, thin-faced man, with light complexion 
and a little bent, made his appearance, with a paper 
in his hand. Burch's gang, consisting of myself, Eli- 
za and her children, Harry, Letlie, and some othei-s, 
who had joined us at Richmond, were consigned to 
him. This gentleman was Mr. Theopliilus Freeman. 
Reading from his paper, he called, " Piatt." No one 
answered. The name was called again and again, but 
fitill there was no reply. Then Lethe was called, then 


Eliza, then Ilany, \intil the list was finished, cacli 
one stepping t'urward as his or her name Avas called. 

"Ca}>tain, where's Piatt?" demanded Theophilua 

Tin.' c'a}»tain was nnable to inform him, no one be- 
ing on Ijoard answering to that name. 

""Who shipped tJiat nigger?" he again inquired of 
the captain, pointing to me. 

" Burch," replied the captain. 

" Your name is Piatt — you answer mv description. 
Wliy don't you come forward ?" he demanded of me, 
in an angry tone. 

I informed him that was not mj name ; that I had 
never been called by it, but that I had no objection 
to it as I knew of 

" Well, I Avill learn you your name," said lie ; " and 
60 you won't forget it either, by ," he added. 

Mr. Theophilus Freeman, by the way, was not a 
Avhit behind his partner, Burch, in the matter of blas- 
j^hemy. On the vessel I had gone by the name of 
"Steward," and this was the first time I had ever 
been designated as Piatt — the name forwarded by 
Burch to his consignee. Prom the vessel I ol)serv- 
ed the chain-gang at work on the levee. AVe passed 
near them as we were driven to Freeman's slave pen. 
This pen is very similar to Goodin's in Richmond, ex- 
cept the yard was enclosed l)y ])lank, standing up- 
right, with ends sharpened, instead of brick walls. 

Including us, there were now at least fifty in this 
pen. Depositing our blankets in one of the small 


buildings in the yard, and liaviiig been called up and 
fed, we were allowed to saunter about tlie enclosure 
until niglit, when we wrapped our blankets round us 
and laid down under the shed, or in the loft, or in the 
open yard, just as each one preferred. 

It was but a short time I closed my eyes tliat night. 
Thought was busy in my brain. Could it l)e possible 
that I was thousands of miles from home — - that I luid 
been driven through the streets like a dumb beast — • 
that I had been chained and beaten without mercy — 
that I was even then herded with a drove of slaves, a 
slave myself? "Were the events of the last few weeks 
realities indeed ? — or was I passing only through the 
dismal phases of a long, protracted dream ? It was 
no illusion. My cup of sorrow was full to overflow- 
ing. Then I lifted up my hands to God, and in the 
still watches of the night, surrounded by the sleeping 
forms of my companions, begged for mercy on the 
poor, forsaken captive. To the Ahnighty Father of 
us all — the freeman and the slave — I poured forth 
the supplications of a broken spirit, imploring strength 
from on high to bear up against tlie burden of my 
troubles, until the morning light aroused tlie sluml)er- 
ers, ushering in another day of bondage. 







— Eliza's agony on parting from LirrLE emily. 

The very aniial)lo, pions-heartcd Mr. Tlieopliilug 
Freeman, partner or consignee of James II. Burcli, 
ami keeper of the slave pen in Xew-Orleans, was ont 
among his animals early in the morning. AVith an 
occasional kick of the older men and women, and 
many a sharp crack of the whip about the ears of the 
younger slaves, it was not long before they were all 
astir, and wide awake. Mr. Theophilus Freeman 
bustled about in a very industrions manner, getting 
his property ready for tiie sales-room, intending, no 
doul)t, to do that day a rousing business. 

In the first place we were recpiired to wash thorough- 
ly, and those with beards, to shave. "We were then 
furnished M'ith a new suit each, cheap, but clean. 
Tlie men had hat, C(^at, shirt, pants and shoes ; the 
women frocks of calico, and handkerchiefs to bind 
about their heads. "\Ve were now conducted into a 
large room in the front part of the building to which 


tlie yard Tvas attaclied, in order to be properly ti'ained, 
before the admission of customei's. The men were 
arranged on one side of tlie room, the ^^'omen on the 
other. The tallest was placed at the head of the row, 
then the next tallest, and so on in the order of their 
respective heights. Emilj was at the foot of the 
line of women. Freeman charged ns to remem- 
ber our ])laces ; exlir)rted ns to appear smart and live- 
ly, — sometimes threatening, and again, holding out 
various inducements. During the day he exercised 
us in the art of " looking smart," and of moving to 
our places with exact j^recision. 

After being fed, in the afternoon, we were again 
2>araded and made to dance. Bo]), a colored boy, 
who had some time belonged to Freeman, played on 
the violin. Standing near him, I made bold to in- 
cpiire if lie could play the " Virginia Reel." lie an- 
swered he could not, and asked me if I could play. 
Replying in the affirnuitive, he handed me the violin. 
I struck up a tune, and finished it. Freeman ordered 
me to continue playing, and seemed well pleased, 
telling Bob that I far excelled him — a remark that 
seemed to grieve my musical companion very much. 

Next day many customers called to examine Free- 
man's " new lot." The latter gentleman was very 
loquacious, dwelling at much length upon our several 
good points and qualities. He would make us hold 
up our heads, walk briskly back and forth, while cus- 
tomers would feel of our hands" and arms and bodies, 
turn us about, ask us what we could do, make us open 


our moutlis and sliow our teeth, precisely as a jockey 
exaniiues a liorsc -wlucli he is about to barter for or 
purchase. Sumetinies a man or woman was taken 
l)ack to the small house in the yard, stripped, and in- 
spected more minutely. Scars upon a slave's back 
were considered evidence of a rebellious or unruly 
Bl^irit, and hurt his sale. 

One old gentleman, who said he wanted a coach- 
man, appeared to take a fancy to me. From his con- 
versation with Burch, I learned he was a resident in 
the city. I very much desired that he would buy me, 
because I conceived it would not be difficult to make 
my escape from jS^ew-Orlcans on some northern vessel. 
Freeman asked him fifteen hundred dollars for me. 
The old gentleman insisted it was too much, as times 
were very hard. Freeman, however, declared that I 
was sound and healthy, of a good constitution, and 
intelligent. lie made it a point to enlarge upon my 
musical attainments. The old gentleman argued 
quite adroitly that there was nothing extraordinary 
about the nigger, and finally, to my regret, went out, 
saying he would call again. During the day, how- 
ever, a numl)er of sales were made. David and Car- 
oline were purchased together by a Xatchez planter. 
Tliey left us, grinning broadly, and in the most happy 
state of mind, caused by the fact of their not being sep- 
arated. Lethe was sv:)ld to a planter of Baton R(^uge, 
her eyes flashing with anger as she was led away. 

The same man also purchased Bandall. The little 
fellow was made to jump, and run across the floor, 


and perform many other feats, exliiliiting liis activity 
and condition. All the time the trade was going on, 
Eliza "was cr^'ing alond, and wringing her liands. She 
hesonglit the man not to Iniy him, unless he also 
bought herself and Emily. She promised, in that case, 
to be the most faithful slave tliat ever lived. Tlie 
man answered that he could not afford it, and then 
Eliza burst into a paroxysm of grief, wee})ing plain- 
tively. Freeman turned round to her, savagely, with 
his whip in his uplifted hand, ordering her to stop her 
noise, or he would ii<'»g lier. lie would not have such 
work — such snivelling; and unless she ceased that 
minute, he would take her to tlie yard and give her a 
hundred lashes. Yes, he would take the nonsense out 
of her pretty quick — if he didn't, might he be d — d. 
Eliza shrunk before him, and tried to wipe away her 
tears, but it was all in vain. She wanted to be with 
her children, she said, the little time she liad to live. 
All the frowns and threats of Freeman, could not 
wholly silence the afflicted mother. She kept on beg- 
ging and beseeching them, most piteously, not to sep- 
arate the three. Over and over again she told them 
how she loved her boy. A great many times she 
repeated her former promises — how very faithful and 
obedient she would l)e ; how hard she w^ould labor 
day and night, to the last moment of her lite, if ho 
would only buy them all together. But it was of no 
avail ; the man could not afford it. The bargain was 
agreed upon, and Randall must go alone. Then Eli- 
z<i ran to him ; embraced him passionately ; kissed 


him again aiicl again; told him to rememher her — ■ 
all the Avhile her tears falling in the hoy's face like rain. 

Freeman damned her, calling lier a bluhbering, 
bawling wench, and ordered her to go to her place, 
and behave herself, and be somebody. lie swore he 
wouldn't stand such stutf but a little longer. lie 
wouhl situn give her something to cry about, if she 
was not mighty careful, and tlmt she might depend 

The planter from Baton Kouge, with his new pur- 
chases, was ready to depart. 

" Don't cry, mama. I will be a good boy. Don't 
cry," said Ilandall, looking back, as they passed out 
of the door. 

What has become of the lad, God knows. It Avas 
a mournful scene indeed. I would have cried myself 
if I had dared. 

That night, nearly all who came in on the brigDr- 
leans, were taken ill. They complained of violent 
pain in the head and back. Little Emily — a thing 
imusual with her — cried constantly. In the morn- 
ing a physician was called in, but was unable to de- 
termine the nature of our complaint. AVhilo examin- 
ing me, and asking questions touching my symptoms, 
I gave it as my opinion that it was an attack of small- 
pox — mentioning the fact of Ivobert's death as the 
reason of my belief. It might be so indeed, he thought, 
and he would send for the head })hysician of the hos- 
pital. Shortly, the head physician came — a small, 
light-haired man, whom they called Dr. Carr. lie 


pronounced it small-pox, wliercnpon there was much 
alarm throughout the yard. Soon after Dr. Carr left, 
Eliza, Emmy, Harry and myself were put into a hack 
and driyen to the hospital — a large white marble 
building, standing on the outskirts of the city. Har- 
ry and I were placed in a room in one of the upper 
stories. I became very sick. For three days I was 
entirely blind. "While lying in this state one day, 
Bob came in, saying to Dr. Carr that Freeman had 
sent him over to inquire liow we were getting on. 
Tell him, said the doctor, that Piatt is yery bad, but 
that if he survives until nine o'clock, he may recoyer. 

I expected to die. Though there was little in the 
prospect before me worth living for, the near approach 
of death appalled me. I thought I could have been 
resigned to yield up my life in the bosom of my family, 
but to expii-e in the midst of strangers, under such 
circumstances, was a bitter reflection. 

There were a great number in the hospital, of both 
sexes, and of all ages. In the rear of the T)uilding 
coffins were inanufactured. When one died, the bell 
tolled — a sigjial to the undertaker to come and bear 
away the body to the potter's field. Many times, each 
day and night, the tolling bell sent forth its melan- 
choly voice, announcing another death. But my time 
had not yet come. The crisis having passed, I began to 
revive, and at the end of two weeks and two days, 
returned with Harry to the pen, bearing npon my 
fiice the effects of the malady, which to this day con- 
tinues to disfigm'e it. Eliza and Emily were also 


brouijlit back next day in a liack, and again were we 
paradt'd in tlio sales-room, for tlie inspection and ex- 
amination of purchasers. I still indulged the hope 
that the old gentleman in search of a coachman would 
call again, as he had promised, and pui'chase me. In 
that event I felt an abiding confidence that I would 
Boon regain my liberty. Customer after customer 
entered, but the old gentleman never nuide his ap- 

At length, one day, while we were in the yard, 
Freeman came out and ordered us to our ])laees, in 
the great room. A gentleman was waiting lor us a8 
we entered, and inasmuch as he will be often men- 
tioned in the progress of this narrative, a description 
of his personal appearance, and my estimation of his 
character, at first sight, may not be out of place. 

lie was a man above the ordinary height, some- 
what bent and stooping forward. lie was a good- 
looking man, and appeared to have reached about the 
middle age of life. Tliere was nothing repulsive in 
his presence ; but on the other hand, tliere was some- 
thing cheerful and attractive in his face, and in his 
tone of voice. Tiie finer elements were all kindly 
mingled in his breast, as any one could see. lie 
mt>ved about among us, asking many questions, as to 
what we could do, and what labor we had been ac- 
customed to ; if we thought we would like to live 
with him, and would be good boys if he would buy 
us, and other interrogatories of like character. 

After some further inspection, and conversation 

Eliza's paetestg feom EiriLT. 85 

toncliinpf prices, lie finally offered Freeman one thou- 
sand dollars for me, nine Imndred for Ilany, and sev- 
en hundred for Eliza. "Whether the small-pox had 
dejjreeiated our value, or from -svhat cause Freeman 
liad concluded to fall five hundred dollars from the 
price I was before held at, I cannot say. xVt any rate, 
after a little shrewd reflection, he aimounced his ac- 
ceptance of the ofl'er. 

As soon as Eliza heard it, she was in an ao-onv 
again. By this time she had become haggard and 
hollow-eyed with sickness and with sorrow. It would 
be a relief if I could consistently pass over in silence 
the scene that now ensued. It recalls memories more 
mournful and afi'ecting than any language can por- 
tray. I have seen mothers kissing fjr the last time 
the faces of their dead ofispring ; I have seen them 
looking down into the grave, as the earth fell with a 
dull sound upon their coffins, liiding them from their 
eyes forever ; but never have I seen such an exhibi- 
tion of intense, unmeasured, and unbounded grief, as 
when Eliza was parted from her child. She broke 
from her place in the line of M'omen, and rushing down 
where Emily was standing, caught her in her arms. 
The child, sensible of some impending danger, instinct- 
ively fastened her hands around her mother's neck, 
and nestled her little head upon her bosom. Free- 
man sternly ordered her to be quiet, but she did not 
heed him. He caught her by the arm and pulled her 
rudely, but she only clung the closer to the child. 
Then, with a volley of great oaths, ho struck b r suck 


a licartlcsi? \)\ovr, tluit slie staggered backward, and 
was like to falk Oh ! liow piteouslj then did she be- 
seecli and beg and pray that thcj might not be sepa- 
rated. A\^hy eonhl they not be pnrchased together? 
"Wliy Tiot h't lier liave one of lier dear chikh'en ? 
"Mercy, mercy, master! " she cried, falling on her 
knees. " Phrase, master, buy Emily. I can never 
work any if she is taken from me : I will die." 

Freeman interfered again, bnt, disregarding him, 
she still plead most earnestly, telling how Ilandall had 
been taken from her — how she never wonld see him 
again, and now it was too bad — oh, God ! it was too 
bad, too crnel, to take her away from Emily — her 
pride — her only darling, that could not live, it was 
so young, without its mother ! 

Finally, after much more of supplication, the pur- 
chaser of Eliza stepped forward, evidently alfected, 
and said to Freeman he would buy Emily, and asked 
Iiini what lier price was. 

" What is her pi'lce? Buy her ?" was the respon- 
sive interrogatory of Theophilus Freeman. And in- 
stantly answering his own inquiry, he added, '' I won't 
sell her. She's not for sale. 

Tlie man remarked he M'as not in need of one so 
young — that it would be of no profit to him, but 
since the mother was so fond of her, rather than see 
them separated, he would pay a reasonable price. 
But to this humane pi'oposal Freeman was entirely 
deaf. lie would not sell her then on any account 
whatever. There were heaps and piles of money to 


])C made of lior, lie saul, wlien she was a few years 
older. There were men enough in New-Orleans who 
would give fiv^e thousand dollars for such an extra, 
handsome, fancy piece as Emily would be, rather than 
not get her. No, no, he would not sell her then. 
She was a beauty — a picture — a doll — one of the 
regular bloods — none of your thick-lipped, bullet- 
headed, cotton-picking niggers — if she was might he 
be d— d. 

"WHien Eliza heard Freeman's determination not to 
part with Emily, she became absolutely frantic. 

''I will not go without her. They shall noti^Q 
lier from me," she fairly shrieked, her shrieks com- 
mingling with the loud and angry voice of Freeman, 
commanding her to bo silent. 

Meantime Harry and myself had been to the yard 
and returned with our blankets, and were at the front 
door ready to leave. Our purchaser stood near us, 
gazing at Eliza with an expression indicative of re- 
gret at having bought her at the expense of so much 
sorrow. "We waited some time, when, finally. Free- 
man, out of i^atience, tore Emily from her mother by 
main force, the tvv'o clinging to each other with all 
their might. 

" Don't leave me, mama — don't leave me," scream- 
ed the child, as its mother was pushed harshly for- 
ward ; " Don't leave me — come back, mama," she still 
cried, stretching forth her little arms imploringly. 
But she cried in vain. Out of the door and into the 
street we were cpiickly hurried. Still we could hear 


her callini^ to lier motlicr, " Come brick — don't leave 
me — coine hack, mama," until her infant voice grew 
faint and still mure faint, and gradually died a^vay, 
as distance intervened, and linally was wholly lost. 

Eliza never after saw or heard of Emily or liandall. 
Day nor night, however, were they ever absent from 
lier memory. In the cotton field, in the cabin, al- 
ways and everywhere, she was talking of them — often 
to them, as if they were actuallj'^ present. Only 
\vhen absorbed in that illusion, or asleep, did she ever 
have a moment's comfort afterwards. 

She was no common slave, as has been said. To a 
large share of natural intelligence which she possess- 
ed, was added a general knowledge and information 
on most subjects. She had enjoyed opportunities sncli 
as are alforded ot very few of her oppressed class. 
She had been lifted up into the regions of a higher 
life. Freedom — freedom for herself and for her olf- 
ppring, for many years had been her cloud by day, 
her pillar of tire by night. In her pilgrimage through 
the wilderness of bondage, with eyes fixed upon that 
hope-inspiring beacon, she had at length ascended to 
" tlie top of Pisgah," and beheld " the land of prom- 
ise." In an unexpected moment she was uttei'ly over- 
whelmed with disappointment and despair. The glo- 
rious vision of liberty faded from her sight as they led 
her away into captivity. Kow " she weepeth sore in 
the night, and teal's are on her cheeks : all her friends 
have dealt treacherously with her : they have become 
her enemies." 











On leaving the iSTew-Orleans slave pen, Ilariy and 
I followed our new master tlirongli the streets, while 
Ehza, crying and turning back, was forced along by 
Freeman and his minions, mitil we found ourselves on 
board the steamboat Rodolph, then lying at the levee. 
In the course of half an hour we were m.oving briskly 
up the Mississippi, bound for sonx3 point on Red Kiv- 
er. There were quite a number of slaves on board 
beside ourselves, just purchased in the jSTew-Orleans 
market. I remember a Mr. Kelsow, who was said to 
be a well known and extensive planter, had in charge 
a gang of women. 

Our master's name was "William Ford. lie resided 
then in the " Great Pine Woods," in the parish of 
Avoyelles, situated ou the right bank of Red River, 


in tlio hoart of Louisiana. He is now a Baptist 
prcaclicr. Throiii>;liout the whole parisli of Avoyelles, 
and csi)ecially alnnp^ both shores' of Bayou Bceuf, 
where he is more intimately kjmwn, he is accounted 
l>y his fellow-citizens as a M-orthy minister of God. 
In many northern minds, perhaps, the idea of a man 
holding his brother man in servitude, and the traffic 
in human flesh, may seem altogetlier incompatible 
with their concei)ti<.ins of a moral or reliii'ious life. 
From descriptions of such men aslhirch and Freeman, 
and othei's hereinaiter mentioned, they are led to de- 
spise and execrate the whole class of slaveholders, in- 
discriminately. But I was sometime his slave, and 
had an opportunity of learning M'ell his character and 
disposition, anil it is liut siin])lt,' justice to liiui M'hen I 
say, in my ojunion, there never was a more kind, no- 
ble, candid, Christian man tlian William Ford. The 
iniluences and associations tliat liad always surround- 
ed him, blinded him to the inherent wrong at the bot- 
tom of the system of Slavery. He never doubted the 
moral right of one man holding another in subjecticm. 
Looking througli the same medium witli his fathers 
before him, he saw things in the same light. Brought 
lip under other cii'cumstances and other iniluences, 
his notions would undoubtedly have been diflerent. 
Kevertheless, he was a model master, walking up- 
rightly, according to the light of his understanding, 
and fortunate was the slave who came to liis posses- 
sion. "Were all men such as he. Slavery wmdd be de- 
prived of more than half its bitterness. 


"We Tvcrc two days and three niglits on board the 
steamboat Rodolph, during which time nothing of 
particuhir interest occurred. I was now known as 
PLatt, the name given me by Burcli, and by which I 
"was designated through the whole period of my ser- 
vitude. Eliza was sold by the name of " Dradey." 
She was so distinguished in the conveyance to Ford, 
now on record in the recorder's office in ISTew-Or- 

On our passage I was constantly reflecting on my sit- 
uation, and consulting with myself on the best course 
to pursue in order to effect my ultimate escape. 
Sometimes, not only then, but afterwards, I was al- 
most on the point of disclosing fully to Ford the facts 
of my history. I am inclined now to the opinion it 
would liave resulted in my benefit. This course was 
often considered, but through fear of its miscarriage, 
never put into execution, until eventually my transfer 
and his pecuniary embarrassments rendered it evi- 
dently unsafe. Afterwards, under other masters, un- 
like William Ford, I knew well enough the slightest 
knowledge of my real character would consign me at 
once to the remoter depths of Slavery. I was too 
costly a chattel to be lost, and was well aware that I 
would be taken farther on, into some l)y-place, over 
the Texan border, perhaps, and sold ; that I would be 
disposed of as the thief disposes of his stolen horse, if 
my right to freedom was even whispered. So I re- 
solved to lock the secret closely in my heart — never 
to utter one word or syllable as to who or what I was 


— triistino- ill PruMMoiice ami my own slirewJness lor 

At lenn-th we k'ft the steamhoat Ttodolpli at aplaco 
called Ak'xamlria, several liiiiidrfd miles I'rom New- 
Orleans. It is a small town un the southern shore 
of lied River. Having- remained there over night, 
we entered the morning train of cars, and were soon 
at Bayou Lamoui-ie, a still smaller place, distant 
eighteen miles from Alexandria. At that time it was 
the termination of the railroad. Ford's plantation 
was situatetl on the Texas road, twelve miles Irom 
Lamourie, in the Great Pine AVoods. This distance, it 
was announced to ns, must be traveled on foot, tliero 
being ])ul)lic conveyances no farther. Accordingly 
we all set out iii the company of Ford. It wa^ an ex- 
cessively hot day. Harry, Eliza, and myself were yet 
■weak, and the bottoms of our feet were very tender 
from the effects of the small-pox. We proceeded 
slowly. Ford telling us to take our time and sit down 
and rest whenever we desired — a privilege that was 
taken advantage of (piite frequently. After leaving 
Lamourie ami crossing two plantations, one belong- 
ing to I^Ir. Carnell,the other to a Mr. I'lint, avo reach- 
ed the Pino AVood.s, a wilderness that stretches to the 
Sabine Pivcr. 

The will lie c<nintry about Pod Pi\'er is low and 
marshy. Tlie Pine Woods, as they are called, is com- 
paratively upland, M-itli frequent small intervals, how- 
ever, running through them. This upland is covered 
with numerous trees — the white oak, the chincopin, 


rosenibliiig cliostiuit, but j^i'iiiclpally tlie jcllow pine. 
They are of great size, running up sixty feet, and per- 
fectly straight. The woods were full of cattle, very 
shy and wild, dashing away in herds, with a loud 
snuff, at our approach. Some of them were marked 
or l)randed, the rest aj^peared to be in their wild and 
untamed state. They are much smaller than northern 
breeds, and the peculiarity about them that most at- 
tracted ray attention was their horns. They stand 
out from the sides of the head precisely straight, like 
two iron spikes. 

At noon we reached a cleared piece of ground con- 
taining three or four acres. Upon it was a small, un- 
painted, wooden house, a corn crib, or, as we would 
say, a barn, and a log kitchen, standing about a rod 
from the house. It was the summer residence of Mr. 
Martin. Rich planters, having large establishments 
on Bayou Bceuf, are accustomed to spend the warmer 
season in these woods. Here they find clear water 
and delightful shades. In fact, these retreats are to 
the }»lanters of that section of the country what jS^ew- 
poTt and Saratoga are to the wealthier iiduibitants of 
northern cities. 

We were sent around into the kitchen, and supplied 
with sweet potatoes, corn-l)read, and bacon, while 
Master Ford dined with Martin in the house. There 
were several slaves about the premises. Martin came 
out and took a look at us, asking Ford the price of 
each, if we were greeii hands, and so forth, and making 
inquiries in relation to ihe slave market generally. 


After a loni^ rest avc set fortli n^Min, following the 
Texas r<n\(l, ■which had the appearance of Leiiig very 
rarely traveled. For live miles Ave passed through 
continuous woods without ohserving a single habita- 
tion. At h'ligtli, just as the sun was sinlviiig in the 
west, we entered another opening, containing some 
twelve or fifteen acres. 

In tills opening stood a house much larger than Mr. 
Martin's. It was two stories high, with a pia/.za in 
front. In the rear of it was also a log kitchen, poul- 
try house, corncribs, and several negro cabins. Near 
the liouse was a peach orchard, and gardens of orange 
and pomegranate trees. The space was entirely sur- 
rounded by woods, and covered with a carpet of rich, 
rank verdure. It was a quiet, lonely, pleasant place 
— literally a green spot in the wilderness. It was the 
residence of my master, William Ford. 

As we ai)proached, a yellow girl- — her name was 
Iiose — was standing on the \na'/.'/A\. Going to the 
door, she called her mistress, who presently came run- 
ning out to meet her lord. She kissed him, and 
laughingly demanded if he had bought " those nig- 
gei-s." Ford said he had, and told us to go round to 
Sally's cabin and rest ourselves. Tui-ning the comer 
of the house, wc discovered Sally washing — her two 
baby children near her, rolling on the grass. They 
jumped uj) and toddU-d towards us, looked at us a 
moment like a l)race of rabljits, then ran back to their 
mother as if afraid of us. 

Sally conducted us into the cabin, told us to lay down 


onr 1 ) undies and be scaled, for slie was sure that we were 
tired. Just then John, the cook, a boy some sixteen 
years of ago, and bhicker than any crow, came run- 
ning in, looked steadily in our faces, then turning 
round, without saying as much as "how d'ye do," 
ran back to the kitchen, laughing loudly, as if our 
coming was a great Joke indeed. 

Much wearied with our walk, as soon as it was 
dark, Harry and I wrapped our blankets round us, 
and laid down upon the cabin floor. My thoughts, 
as usual, wandered back to my wife and children. 
The consciousness of my real situation ; the hopeless- 
ness of any eiibrt to escape through the wide forests 
of Avoyelles, pressed heavily upon me, yet my heart 
was at home in Saratoga. 

I was awakened early in the' morning by tiie voice 
of Master Ford^ calling Rose. She hastened into the 
house to dress the children, Sally to the held to milk 
the cows, while John was busy in the kitchen prepar- 
ing br^'akfast. In the meantime Harry and I were 
strolling al)Out the yard, looking at our new quarters. 
Just after breakfast a colored man, driving three yoke 
of oxen, attached to a wagon load of lumber, drove 
into the opening. He was a slave of Ford's, named 
Y>^alton, the husband of Rose. By the way. Rose was 
a native of Washington, and had been brought from 
thence live years before. She had never seen Eliza, 
but she had heard of Berry, and they knew the same 
streets, and the same people, either personally, or by 
reputation. They became fast friends immediately, 


aiul talked a uroat deal together of old times, and of 
friends thev had left behind. 

Ford was at that time a wealthy man. Besides his 
seat in the Pine "N^oods, he owned a large lumbering 
establishment on Indian Creek, foin- miles distant, and 
also, in his wife's right, an extensive plantation and 
many slaves on Bayou Uteuf. 

Walton had come M-ith his load of lumber from the 
mills on Indian Creek. Ford directed us to return 
Avith him, saying he would follow us as soon as possible. 
I>efore leaving, ]\Iistress Ford called me into the store- 
room, and handed me, as it is there termed, a tin 
bucket of molasses for Harry and myself. 

Eliza was still ringing her hands and deploring the 
loss of her children. Ford tried as much as possible 
to console her — told her she need not woi-k vei-y hard ; 
that she might remain with Rose, and assist the mad- 
am in the lunise alfairs. 

Riding with A\'alton in the wagon, Ilariy and I be- 
came quite well acquainted with him long before 
reaching Indian Creek. He was a "born thrall" of 
Ford's, and spoke kindly and affectionately of him, as 
a child Would speak of his own father. In answer to 
liis iuipiiries from whence I came, I told him from 
Washington. Of that city, he had heard much from 
his wife, liose, and all the way plied me with many 
extravagant and absurd questions. 

On reaching the mills at Indian Creek, we found 
two more of Ford's slaves, Sam and Antt.^n^^. Sam, 
also, -was a Washingtouian, having been brought out 


in tlie same gang with Eose, He had worked on a 
farm near Georgetown. Antony was a blacksmith, 
from Kentucky, who had been in his present master's 
service about ten years. Sam knew Burch, and when 
informed that he was the trader who had sent me on 
from "Washington, it was remarkable how well we 
agreed upon the subject of his superlative rascality. 
He had forwarded Sam, also. 

On Ford's arrival at the mill, we were employed in 
piling lumber, and chopping logs, which occupation 
we continued during the remainder of the summer. 

"\Ye usually spent our Sabbatlis at the opening, on 
which (lays our master would gather all his slavea 
about him, and read and expound the Scriptures. 
He sought to inculcate in our minds feelings of kind- 
ness towards each other, of dependence upon God — ■ 
setting forth the rewards promised unto those who 
lead an upright and prayerful life. Seated in the 
doorway of his house, surrounded by his man-ser- 
vants and his maid-servants, who looded earnestly into 
the good man's face, he spoke of the loving kindness 
of the Creator, and of the life that is to come. Often 
did the voice of prayer ascend from his lips to heaven, 
the only sound that broke the solitude of the place. 

In the course of tlie summer Sam became deeply 
convicted, his mind dwelling intensely on the subject 
of religion. His mistress gave him a Bible, which 
lie carried with him to his work. "Whatever leisure 
time was allowed him, he spent in perusing it, though 
it was only with great difficulty that he could master 

98 TWKLVH yi:ai:s a slave. 

any part of it. I oiU'U rcail tit liiiu, a fa\<>r wliiclilic 
well ropuid nie by many expressions of gratitude. 
Sam's i)iety was frequently observed by white men 
who came t(^ the mill, and the renuirk it most gener- 
ally prii\(>ki'(l wa^. that a man like Ford, whfi all'»wed 
his slaves to have Ihbles, was " not lit to own anigi:;er." 

He, liowever, lost nothing by his kindness. It is 
a fact I have more than once observed, that those who 
treated their slaves most leniently, were rewarded by 
the o;rcatest amount of labor. I know it from my 
own experience. It was a source of })leasure to sur- 
prise Master Ford with a greater day's work than was 
required, while, under subsequent masters, there was 
no prompter to extra effort but the overseer's lash. 

It was the desire of Ford's ajiproving voice that 
suggested to me an idea that resulted to his profit. 
Tlie lund)cr we were manufacturing was contracted 
to be delivered at Lamourie. It had hitherto been 
transported by land, and was an im])ortant item of 
expense. Indian Creek, upon which the mills were 
situated, was a narrow but deep stream emptying into 
Bayou Boeuf. In some places it was not more than 
twelve feet wide, and much obstructed with truid\-sof 
trees. Bayou Bceuf was connected with Bayou Lamou- 
rie. I ascertained the distance from the mills to the 
point on the latter bayou, where our lumber was to be 
delivered, was but a few miles less by land than by 
water. Provided the creek could be made navigable 
for rafts, it occurred to me that the expense of trans- 
portation would be nuiterially diminished. 


Adam Taydom, a little wliite man, wlioliad been a 
soldier in Florida, and had strolled into that distant 
region, was foreman and snperintendent of the mills. 
He scouted the idea ; bnt Ford, when I laid it before 
liim, received it favorably, and permitted me to try 
the experiment. 

Having removed the obstructions, I made up a nar- 
row raft, consisting of twelve cribs. At this business 
I think I was quite skillful, not having forgotteii my 
experience years before on the Champlain canal. I 
labored hard, being extremely anxious to succeed, 
both from a desire to please my master, and to show 
Adam Taydem that my scheme was not such a vis- 
ionary one as he incessantly pronounced it. One 
hand could manage three cribs. I took charge of the 
forward three, and commenced poling down the 
creek. In due time we entered the first bayou, and 
finally reached our destination in a shorter period 
of time than I had anticipated. 

The arrival of the raft at Lamourie created a sen- 
sation, while Mr. Ford loaded me with commenda- 
tions. On all sides I heard Ford's Piatt pronounced 
the " smartest nigger in the Pine Woods" • — in fact 
I was the Fulton of Indian Creek. I was not insen- 
sible to the praise bestowed upon me, and enjoyed, 
especially, my triumph over Taydem, whose half- 
malicious ridicule had stung my j^ride. From this 
time the entire control of bringing the lumber to 
Lamourie was placed in my hands until the contract 
was fulfilled. 


Indian Crock, in its wliole Icngtli, flows tlirougli a 
magnificent -Tlicre dwells on its shore a tribe 
of Indians, a remnant of the Chickasaws or Chick- 
opees, if I rememher rightly. They live in simple 
liuts, ton or twelve feet s<piai'e, constructed of pine 
poles and covered with bark. They subsist princi- 
pally on the flesh of the deer, the coon, gend opos- 
sum, all ot' which are plenty in these woods. Some- 
times they exchange venison for a little corn and 
whisky with the planters on the bayous. Their 
nsual dress is buckskin breeches and calico lumting 
shirts of fantastic colors, buttoned from belt to chin. 
They wear brass rings on their wrists, and in their 
ears and noses. The dress of the scpiaws is very 
similar. Tliey are fond of dogs and horses — owning 
many of the latter, of a small, tongli breed — ^and 
are skillful rideis. Their bridles, girths and saddles 
■svere made of raw skins of animals ; their stirrups 
of a certain kiiul of wood. Mounted astride their 
ponies, mer and women, I have seen them dash out 
into the woods at the utmost of their speed, following 
narrow winding paths, and dodging trees, in a man- 
ner that eclipsed tiio most miraculous feats of civil- 
ized equestrianism. Circling away in various direc- 
tions, the forest echoing and re-echoing with their 
whoops, they would presently return at the same 
dashing, headlong speed with -ndiicli they started. 
Their village was on Indian Creek, known as Indian 
Castle, but their range extended to the Sabine River. 
Occasionally a tribe from Texas would come over on 


a visit, and tlien tliere "svas indeed a carnival in the 
" Great Pine Woods/' Chief of the tribe was Cas- 
caHa ; second in raidc, Jolm Baltese, liis son-in-law ; 
with Loth of whom, as with many others of the tribe, 
I became acquainted during my frcqiient voyages 
down tlie creek with rafts. Sam and' myself would 
often visit them when the day's task was don'e." They 
were obedient to the chief; the word of Cascalla 
w^as their law. They were a rude but liarmless peo- 
jole, and enjoyed their wild mode of life. They had 
little lancy for the o})en country, the cleared lands 
on the shores of the bayous, hut preferred to hide 
themselves within the shadows of the forest. Tliey 
worshiped the Great Spirit, loved whisky, and were 

On one occasion I was present at a dance, when 
a roving herd from Texas had encamped in their 
village. Tlie entire carcass of a deer was roasting 
before a large fire, wdiicli threw its light a long dis- 
tance among the trees under which they were assem- 
bled. When they had formed in a ring, men and 
squaws alternately, a sort of Lidian liddle set up an 
indescribable tune. It was a continuous, melancholy 
kind of wavy sound, with the slightest possible vari- 
ati<_>n. At the first note, if indeed there was more 
than one note in the whole tune, they circled around, 
trotting after eacli other, and giving utterance to a 
guttural, sing-song noise, equally as nondescript as the 
music of the fiddle. At the end of the third circuit, 
they would stop suddenly, whoop as if their lungs 


would crat-k, tlu-ii l)i-o:ik from tlie ring, forming in 
couples, man and sijuaw, cac-li jumping bacdvwards as 
tar as possible from the other, tlieii forwards — Avhicli 
graceful feat luiviuir been twice or thrice accomi)lisli- 
ed, they woidd form in a ring, and go trotting round 
again, llie t/^st dancer a])peared to be considered 
the one. :^Vlio could whoop the loudest, jump the far- 
thest, and utter the most excruciating noise. x\t in- 
tervals, one or more would leave the dancing circle, 
and going to the lire, cut from the roasting carcass a 
slice of venison. 

In a hole, sliaj>ed like a mortar, cut in the trunk 
of a falK'n tree, they pounded corn with a wooden 
pestle, and of the meal made cake. Alternately they 
danced and ate. Thus were the visitors from Texas 
entertained by the dusky sons and daughters of the 
Chieopees, and such is a description, as I saw it, of 
an Indian ball in the Pine AVoods of Avoyelles. 

In the autumn, I left the mills, and was employed 
at the opening. One day the mistress was urging 
Ford to procure a loom, in order that Sally might 
commence weaving cloth for the winter garments of 
the slaves, lie could not imagine M'here one was to 
be found, when I suggested that the easiest M'ay to 
iret one would be to make it, informino; him at the 
same time, that I was a sort of " Jack at all trades," 
and would attt'uipt it, with his permission. It was 
"•ranted verv readilv, and I was allowed to go to a 
neighboring planter's to inspect one before commen- 
cing the undertaking. At length it was finished 


and pronounced by Sally to bo perfect. Sbe could 
easily weave lier task of fourteen yards, milk tlio 
cows, and liavo leisure time besides each day. It 
"worked so well, I was continued in the employment 
of making looms, which were taken down to the 
plantation on the bayou. 

At this time one John ]\I. Til)eats. a capentcr, came 
to the opening to do some work on master's house. 
I was directed to (juit the looms and assist him. For 
two weeks I was in his com])any, planing and match- 
ing boards for ceiling, a plastered room being a rare 
thing in the parish of Avoyelles. 

John M. Tibeats was the opposite of Ford in all 
respects. lie was a small, crabbed, cpiick-tempered, 
spiteful man. He had no fixed residence that I ever 
heard of, but passed from one plantation to another, 
wherever he could find employment. He was with- 
out standing in the community, not esteemed by 
white men, nor even respected by slaves. lie w^as 
ignorant, withal, and of a revengeful disposition. He 
left the parish long before I did, and I know not 
whether he is at present alive or dead. Certain it is, 
it was a most unlucky day for me that brought us 
together. During my residence with Master Ford I 
had seen only the bright side of slavery. His was 
no heavy hand crushing us to the earth. lie pointed 
upwards, and with benign and cheering words ad- 
dressed us as his fellow-mortals, accountable, like 
himself, to the MaKer of us all. I think of him with 
affection, and had my lamily been with me, could 


have Lome his gentle servitude, witliont miirmiinng, 
all my days. 13ut clouds were gutlierinLj iu the hori- 
zon — forerunners of a pitiless storm tluit was soon 
to break over me. I was doomed to endure sucli bit- 
ter trials as the poor slave only knows, and to lead 
no more the comparatively happy life wbich I had 
led in the " Great Pine AVoods." 







"William Ford Viiifortunately became emljarrassed 
inliis pecuniary aflairs. xi heavy judgment was ren- 
dered against liim in consequence of liis having he- 
come security for his brother, Franklin Ford, residing 
on Red liiyer, al)ove Alexandria, and ^yho had failed 
to meet his liabilities. lie was also indebted to John 
M. Tibeats to a considerable amount in consideration 
of his services in building the mills on Indian Creek, 
and also a weaving-house, corn-mill and other erec- 
tions on the plantation at Bay on Boeuf, not yet com- 
pleted. It was therefore necessary, in order to meet 
these demands, to dispose of eighteen slaves, myself 
among the number. Seventeen of them, including 
Sam and Harry, ^^-ere purchased by Peter Comptonj 
a planter also residing on Red River. 


I vras sold to Til)e:its, in conserjiience, undoiibtedlj, 
of my sli^lit skill as a (•ari)eiiter. This was in the 
M'intor of 1S42. The deed of myself from Freeman 
to Furd, as I ascertained from the puhlic records in 
Xew-Orleans on my return, was dated June 23d, 
1S41. At the time of my sale to Tibeats, the price 
agreed to be given for me beini;; more than the debt, 
Ford took a cliattel moi-tgafre of four hundred dollars. 
I am iiidel)ted f )r my life, as will hereai'ter be seen, 
to that mortixage. 

I bade tarewe'll to my ::;(>od friends at the opening, 
and departed with my neM' master Tibeats. AVe 
went down to the i>lantation on Bayou Boeuf, distant 
twenty-seven miles from the Pine AVoods, to complete 
the nntinished contract. Bayou B(,euf is a sluggish, 
winding stream — one of those stagnant bodies of 
water common in that region, setting back from Red 
River. It stretches from a point not far from Alex- 
andria, in a south-easterly direction, and following its 
tortuous course, is mm-e than fifty iniles in length. 
Large cotton and sugar plantations line each shore, 
extending ba(dv to the l)t>rders of interminable 
swamps. It is alive with aligators, rendering it un- 
safe for swine, or unthinking slave children to stroll 
along its banks. Uj>on a bend in this liayon, a short 
distance from Cheney ville. was situate<l the plantation 
of ^ladam Ford — her brother, Peter Tanner, a great 
landholder, living on the op])osite side. 

On my arrival at Bayou ]>(t'uf. T had the pleasure 
of meeting Eliza, whom I had not seen for seTeral 


montlis. She liad not pleased Mrs. Ford, being more 
occupied in brooding over her sorrows tlian in attend- 
ing to her bnsiness, andliad, in conse(pience, been sent 
down to work in the field on the plantation. She had 
grown feeble and emaciated, and was still mourning 
for her children. She asked me if I had forgotten 
them, and a great many times inquired if I still re- 
membered how handsome little Emily was — how 
much Randall loved her — and wondered if they were 
living still, and where the darlings could then be. 
She had sunk beneath the weight of an excessive grief. 
Her drooping form and hollow cheeks too plainly indi- 
cated that she had well nigh reached the end of her 
weary road. 

Ford's overseer on this plantation, and who had the 
exclusive charge of it, was a Mr. Chapin, a kindly-dis- 
posed man, and a native of Pennsylvania. In com- 
mon with others, he held Tibeats in light estimation, 
which fact, in connection Avith the four hundred dol- 
lar mortgage, was fortunate for me. 

I was now compelled to labor very hard. From 
earliest dawn until late at night, I was not allowed to 
be a moment idle. Notwithstanding which, Tibeats 
was never satisfied. He was continually cursing and 
complaining. He never spoke to me a kind Avord. I 
was his faithful slave, and earned him large wages 
every day, and y^t I went to my cabin nightly, loaded 
with abuse and stinging epithets. 

"We had completed the corn mill, the kitchen, and 
60 forth, and were at work upon the weaving-house. 


■wlicn I was guilty of an act, in that State punishable 
with death. It was my first fight with Tibcats. The 
weavlng-honse we were erecting stood in the orchard 
a few rods from the residence of Chapin, or the " great 
house," as it was calk'd. One niglit, having worked 
until it was too dark to see, I was ordered by Tibeats 
to rise very early in the morning, procure a keg of 
nails from Chapin, and commence putting on the 
chipboards. I retired to the cabin extremely tired, 
and having cooked a supper of bacon and corn cake, 
and conversed a while with Eliza, who occupied the 
same cabin, as also did Lawson and his wife Mary, 
and a slave named Bristol, laid down upon the ground 
floor, little dreaming of the suti'erings that awaited me 
on the morrow. Before daylight I was on the piazza 
of the " great house,'' awaiting the appearance of over- 
seer Chapin. To have aroused him from his slumbers 
and stated my errand, would have been an unpardon- 
able boldness. At length he came out. Taking off 
my hat, I informed liini ]\raster Tibeats had directed 
me to call upon him for a keg of nails. Going into 
the store-room, he rolled it out, at the same time say- 
ing, if Tibeats preferred a different size, he would en- 
deavor to furnish them, but that I might use those 
until further directed. Then mounting his horse, 
Avliich stood saddled and bridled at the door, he rode 
away into the field, whither the slaves had i)receded 
him, while I took the keg on my shoulder, and pro- 
ceeding to the weaving-house, broke in the head, and 
commenced nailing on the clapboards. 


As the day began to open, Tibeats came out of the 
house to where I was, hard at work. lie seemed to 
be that morning even more morose and disagreeable 
than usuaL lie was my master, entitled by law to 
my ilesh and blood, and to exercise over me such ty- 
rannical control as his mean nature prompted ; but 
there was no law that could prevent my looking upon 
liim with intense contempt. I despised both his dis- 
position and his intellect. I had just come round to 
the keg for a further supply of nails, as he reached 
the weaving-house. 

" I thought I told you to commence putting on 
weather-boards this morning," he remarked. 

" Yes, master, and I am about it," I replied. 

" Where ? " he demanded. 

" On the other side," was my answer. 

He walked round to the other side, examined my 
work fur a while, muttering to himself in a lault-find- 
ing tone. 

" Didn't I tell you last night to get a keg of nails 
of Chapin ( " he broke forth again. 

" Yes, master, and so I did ; and overseer said he 
would get another size for you, if you wanted them, 
when he came back from the field." 

Tibeats walked to the keg, looked a moment at the 
contents, then kicked it violently. Coming towards 
me in a great passion, he exclaimed, 

" G — d d — n you ! I thought you linoioed some- 

I made answer : " I tried to do as you told me, 


master. I didn't lucan anythiuf^ wrongs. Overseer 
said — '' ])ut he interriii)ted nie witli such a flood of 
cui-ses tliat I was unable to liuisli the senteuce. At 
length lie I'au towards the house, and going to the 
piazza, took down one of the overseer's whips. The 
whip had a short wooden stock, braided over with 
leather, and was loa<led at the butt. Tlie lash was 
three feet long, or thereabouts, and made of raw-hide 

Atlirst I was somewhat frightened, and my impulse 
was to run. There was no one about except Rachel, 
the cook, and Chapin's wife, and neither of them were 
to be seen, Tlie rest were in the field. I knew he 
intended to whij) me, and it was the fii-st time any 
one had attemj)ted it since my arrival at Avoyelles. 
I felt, moreover, that I had been ftiithful — that I was 
guilty of no wrong wliatever, and deserved commenda- 
tion rather than i)unishment. My fear changed to 
anffer, and before he reached me I had nuide \w mv 
mind fully not to be wdiipj^ied, let the result be life or 

AVindingthe lash around his hand, and taking hold 
of the small end of the stock, he walked up to me, 
and with a nuUignant look, ordered me to strip. 

" Master Tibeats, said I, looking him boldly in the 
face, " I will not.'' I was al)out to say something 
further in justification, but with concentrated ven- 
geance, he sprang upon me, seizing me by the throat 
with one hand, raising the whip with the other, in the 
act of striking. Before the blow descended, however, 


I had caught him hy the coUar of the coat, and drawn 
hhn closely to nie. Iteaching down, I seized him bj 
the ankle, and pushing him back with the other hand, 
he fell over on the ground. Putting one arm around 
his leg, and holding it to my breast, so that his head 
and shoulders only touched the ground, I placed my 
foot upon his neck. lie was completely in my power. 
My blood was up. It seemed to course through my 
veins like fire. In the frenzy of my madness I snatched 
the whip from his hand. lie struggled with all his 
power ; swore that I should not live to see another 
day ; and that he would tear out my heart. But his 
struggles and his threats were alike in vain. I cannot 
tell how many times I struck him. Blow after blow 
fell fiist and heavy upon his wriggling form. At 
length he screamed — cried murder — and at last the 
blasphemous tyrant called on God for mercy. But 
he who had never showm mercy did not receive it. 
The stiff stock of the whip wai-ped round his cringing 
body until my riglit arm ached. 

Until this time I had been too busy to look about 
me. Desisting for a moment, I saw Mrs. Cliapin 
looking from the window, and Rachel standing in the 
kitchen door. Their attitudes expressed the utmost 
excitement and alarm. His screams had been heard 
in the field. Chapin was coming as fast as he could 
ride. I struck him a blow or two more, then pushed 
him from me with such a well-directed kick that he 
went rolling over on the ground. 

Rising to his feet, and brushing the dirt from his 


hair, lie stood looking at me, pale Avitli rage. We 
gazed at each other in silence. ]S'ot a word was ut- 
tered until Chapin gidloped up to us. 

" AVhat is the matter T' he ci'Ied oat. 

" Master Tibeats wants to whip me for using the 
nails you gave me," I replied. 

" AVhat is the nuitter with the nails ?" he inquired, 
turning to Tibeats. 

Tibeats answered to the effect that they were too 
large, paving little heed, however, to Chapin's ques- 
tion, but still keeping his snakish eves fastened mali- 
ciously on me. 

" I am overseer here," Chapin began, " I told 
riatt to take them and use them, and if they were not 
of the proper size I would get others on returning from 
the field. It is not his fault. Besides, I shall furnish 
such nails as I please. I hope you will understand 
that, Mr. Tibeats." 

Tibeats made no rejjly, but, grinding his teeth and 
shaking his fist, swore he would have satisfaction, 
and that it was not half over yet. Thereupon he walk- 
ed away, follow^ed by the overseer, and entered the 
house, the latter talking to him all the while in a sup- 
pressed tone, and with earnest gestures. 

I remained where I was, doubting whether it was 
better to fiy or abide the result, whatever it might 
be. Presently Tibeats came out of the house, and, 
saddling his horse, the only property he possessed be- 
sides mj'self, departed on the road to Chenyville. 

When he was gone, Chapin came out, visibly exci- 


ted, telling me not to stir, not to attempt to leave the 
plantation on any account whatever. He then went 
to the kitchen, aiul calling Eachel out, conversed with 
her some time. Coming back, he again charged me 
with great earnestness not to run, saying my master 
was a rascal ; that he had left on no good errand, and 
that tliere might be trouble before night. But at all 
events, he insisted upon it, I must not stir. 

As I stood tliere, feelings of unutterable agony 
overwhelmed me. I was conscious that I had sub- 
jected myself to unimaginable punishment. The re- 
action that followed my extreme ebullition of anger 
jn'oduced the most painful sensations of regret. An 
unfriended, helpless slave — what could I do^ what 
could I .SY?y, to justify, in the remotest manner, the 
heinous act I had committed, of resenting a wldte, 
man's contumely and abuse. I tried to pray — I tried 
to beseech my Heavenly Father to sustain me in my 
sore extremity, but emotion choked my utterance, and 
I could only bow my head upon my hands and weep. 
For at least an hour I remained in this situation, find- 
ing relief only in tears, when, looking u]), I beheld 
Tibeats, accompanied by two horsemen, coming down 
rhe bayou. They rode into the yard, jumped from 
their horses, and approached me with large whips, 
one of them also carrying a coil of rope. 

" Cross your hands," commanded Tibeats, with the 
addition of such a shuddering expression of blasphe- 
my as is not decorous to rej^eat. 


114 twel-st: teaks a slave. 

" You need not Wind nie, Master Tibeats, I am 
ready to o;o Avitli you anywhere," said I. 

One of his companions then stepped forward, swear- 
ing if I made the least resistance he would break my 
head — he would tear me limb from limb — he would 
cut my black throat — and giving wide scope to other 
similar expressions. Perceiving any importunity al- 
together vain, I crossed my hands, submitting hum- 
bly to whatever disposition they might please to make 
of me. Thereupon Tibeats tied my wrists, drawing 
the rope around them with his utmost strength. Then 
he bound my ankles in the same manner. In the 
meantime the other two had slipped a cord within my 
elbows, running it across my back, and tying it firm- 
ly. It was utterly impossible to move hand or foot. 
"VYith a remaining piece of rojje Tibeats made an awk- 
ward noose, and placed it about my neck. 

" Kow, then," inquired one of Tibeats' companions, 
" where shall we hang the nigger ?" 

One proposed such a limb, extending from the body 
of a peach tree, near the spot where we were stand- 
ing. His comrade objected to it, alleging it would 
break, and proposed another. Finally they fixed up- 
on the latter. 

During this conversation, and all tlie time they 
were binding me, I uttered not a word. Overseer 
Chapin, during the progress of the scene, was walk- 
ing hastily back and forth on the piazza. Rachel was 
crying by the kitchen door, and Mrs. Chapin w^as still 


looking from tlie window. Hope died within nij 
heart. Surely my time had come. I should never 
behold the light of anotlier day — never behold the 
faces of my children — the sweet anticipation I had 
cherished with such fondness. I should that hour 
struggle through the fearful agonies of death ! Xone 
would mourn for me — none revenge me. Soon my 
form would be mouldering in that distant soil, or, per- 
haps, be cast to the slimy reptiles that filled the stag- 
nant waters of the l:)ayou ! Tears flowed down my 
cheeks, but they only aftorded a suljject of insulting 
comment for my executioners. 

At length, as they were dragging me towards the 
tree, Chapin, who had momentarily disappeared from 
the piazza, came out of the house and walked towards 
lis. He had a pistol in each hand, and as near as I 
can now recall to mind, spoke in a firm, determined 
manner, as fallows : 

'• Gentlemen, I have a few words to say. You had 
better listen to them. Whoever moves that slave an- 
other foot from Vvdiere he stands is a dead man. In 
the first place, he does not deserve this treatment. It 
is a shame to murder him in this manner. I never 
knew a more faithful boy than Piatt. Yon, Tibeats, 
are in the fault yourself. You are pretty much of a 
scoundrel, and I know it, and you richly deserve the 
flogging you have received. In the next place, I have 
been overseer on this plantation seven years, and, in 
the absence of IrYilliam Ford, am master here. My 
duty is to protect his interests, and that duty I shall 



perform. You arc not responsible — you are a worth- 
less fellow. Fiird holds a niortgag-e on Piatt of four 
hundred dollars. If you hang him he loses his debt, 
lentil that is canceled you have no right to take his 
life. You have no right to take it any way. There 
is a law for the slave as well as for the white man. 
You are no better than a murderer. 

" As for you," addressing Cook and Hamsay, a 
couple of overseers from neighboring plantations, "as 
for you — begone ! If you have any regard for your 
own safety, I say, begone." 

Cook and Ramsay, without a further word, mount- 
ed their horses and rode away. Tibeats, in a few 
minutes, evidently in fear, and overawed by the deci- 
ded tone of Chapin, sneaked oft" like a coward, as he 
was, and mounting his horse, followed his companions. 

I remained standing where I was, still bound, with 
the rope around my neck. As soon as they were 
gone, Chapin called Haehel, ordering her to run to 
the field, and tell Lawson to hurry to the house with- 
out delay, and bring the brown mule Avith him, an 
animal much prized for its unusual flcctness. Pres- 
ently the boy appeared. 

'" Lawson," said Chapin, "you must go to the Pine 
Woods. Tell your master Ford to come here at once 
— that he must not delay a single moment. Tell him 
they are trying to murder Piatt. Kow hurry, boy. 
Be at the Pine "Woocls by noon if you kill the mule." 

Chapin stepped into the house and wrote a pass. 
When he returned, Lawson was at the door, mounted 


on his miile. Heceiviiig the pass, he plied the whip 
right siiiartlv to the beast, (hishcd <nit of the yard, and 
turning- up tlie bayou on a hard gallop, in less time 
than it has taken me to describe the scene, was out 
of sio'ht. 











As the sun approaclied the meridian that day it Le- 
canie insnft'erably -warm. Its hot rays scorched the 
ground. The earth ahuost hhstered the foot that stood 
upon it. I was without coat or hat, standing bare- 
headed, exposed to its Lui-ning hhize. Great drops 
of perspiration rolled down my face, drenching the 
scanty apparel wherewith I was clothed. Over the 
fence, a very little way otf, the peach trees cast their 
cool, delicious shadows on the grass. I would gladly 
have given a long year of service to have been ena- 
bled to exchange the heated oven, as it were, where- 
in I stood, for a seat beneath their branches. But I 
was yet bound, the rope still dangling from my neck, 
and standing in the same tracks where Tibeats and 
his comrades left me. I could not move an inch, so 
firmly had I been bound. To have been enabled to 


lean against tlie weaving liouse would have been a 
Inxnry indeed. But it was far beyond my reach, 
though distant less than twenty feet. I wanted to lie 
down, but knew I could not rise again. The ground 
was so parched and boiling hot I was aware it would 
but add to the discomfort of my situation. If I could 
have only moved my position, however slightly, it 
would have l)een relief unspeakable. But the hot 
rays of a southern sun, beating all the long summer 
day on my bare head, produced not half the suffer- 
ing I experienced from my aching limbs. My wrists 
and ankles, and the cords of my legs and arms began 
to swell, burying the rope that bound them into the 
swollen flesh. 

All day Chapin walked back and forth upon the 
stoop, but not once approached me. He appeared to 
be in a state of great uneasiness, looking first 
towards me, and then up the road, as if expecting 
some arrival every moment. He did not go to the 
field, as was his custom. It was evident from his man- 
ner that he supposed Tibeats would return with more 
and better armed assistance, perhaps, to renew the 
quarrel, and it was equally evident he had prepared 
his mind to defend my life at whatever hazard. 
"Why he did not relieve me — why he suffered me to 
remain in agony the whole weary day, I iiever knew. 
It was not for want of sympathy, I am certain. Per- 
haps he wished Ford to see the rope about my neck, 
and the brutal manner in which I had been bound ; 
perhaps his interference with another's property in 


■wliicli hv liail no leu'al interest niij:-lit have l)een a 
trespass, ^\•lliell \vt>uld liave subjected him to the pen- 
alty of the hiw. AVhy Tibeats was all day absent was 
another mystery I never could divine, lie knew well 
enoiiirh that ("]ia])iii would not harm him unless he 
persisted in his desiijn against nie. Lawsou told me 
afterwards, that, as he passed the jilantatimi of John 
David Cheney, he saw the three, and that they turned 
and looked after him as he flew by. I think his sup- 
position was, that Lawson had been sent out by Over- 
seer Chapin to arouse the neighboring planters, and 
to call on them to come to his assistance. lie, there- 
fore, undoubtedly, acted on the j^rinciple, that " dis- 
cretion is the better part of valor," and kept away. 

But whatever motive may have governed the cow- 
ardly and malignant tyrant, it is of no im]»ortance. 
There I still stood in the noon-tide sun, groaning with 
pain. From long before daylight I had not eaten a 
morsel. I was gi'owing faint from ])ain, and thirst, 
and hunger. Once only, in the very hottest i)ortion 
of the day, Eachel, half fearful she was acting con- 
trary to the overseer's wishes, ventured to me, and 
held a cuj* of water to my li])s. The humble crea- 
ture never knew, nor could she com})relieiul if she 
Lad heard them, the blessings I invoked upon her, 
for that balmy draught. She could only say, "Oh, 
riatt, Iniw 1 do ])iTy you," and then hastened back to 
her labors in the kitchen. 

Xever did the sun move so slowly tluvuigh the 
heavens — never did it shoMer down such fervent and 


fiery rays, as it did that day. At least, so it appear- 
ed to me. Wliat my meditations were — tlie inniime- 
ralile tliouglits that thrcMigcd through my distracted 
brain — I will not attempt to give expression to. 
Suffice it to say, during the whole long day I came 
not to the conclusion, even once, that the southern 
slave, fed, clothed, whipped and protected by his 
master, is happier than the free colored citizen of the 
Korth. To that conclusion I have never since arri- 
ved. Tliere are many, however, even in the I\ orthern 
States, benevolent and well-disposed men, who w411 
pronounce my opinion erroneous, and gravely proceed 
to substantiate the assertion with an argument. Alas ! 
they have never drank, as I have, from the bitter cup 
of slavery. Just at sunset my heart leaped with un- 
bomided joy, as Ford came riding into the yard, his 
horse covered with f )am. Cliapin met Iiim at the 
door, and after conversing a short tinie, he walked 
directly to me. 

" Poor Piatt, you are in a bad state," was the only 
expression tliat escaped his lips. 

" Tliank God !" said I, " thank God, Master Ford, 
that you have come at last." 

Drawing a knife from his pocket, he indignantly 
cut the c<ird from my wrists, arms, and ankles, and 
slipped the noose from my neck. I attempted to 
walk, but staggered like a drunken man, and fell par- 
tially to the ground. 

Ford returned immediately to the house, leaving 
tne alone again. As he reached the piazza, Tibeata 


and his two fn'cmls rode ni». A \ou<^ dialogue fol- 
lowed. I could hear the sound of their voices, the 
jnild tones of Ford mingling with the angry accents 
of Tibeats, hut was unable to distinguish what was 
said. Finally the tlu'ce departed again, a|>]»arcntly 
not well i)leased. 

I endeavored to raise thehannner, thinking to show 
Ford how willing I was to work, by proceeding with 
my labors on the weaving house, ])Ut it fell fn»iu my 
nerveless hand. At dark I crawled into the cabin, 
and laid down. I was in great misery — all sore and 
swollen — the slightest movement pi-odiicing excruci- 
ating suffering. Soon the hands came in from the 
field. Ivachel, M'hen she went after Lawson, had told 
them what had happened. Eliza and Mary broiled 
me a piece of bacon, but my appetite was gone. 
Then they scorched some corn meal and made coffee. 
It was all that I could take. Eliza consoled me and 
was very kind. It was not long before the cabin was 
full of slaves. They gathered round me, asking many 
questions about the diiiiculty with Tibeats in the 
morning — and the particulars of all the occurrences 
of the day. Then Eachel came in, and in her simple 
language, repeated it over again — dwelling emphat- 
ically on the kick that sent Tibeats rolling over on 
the ground — whereupon there was a general titter 
throughout the crowd. Tlien she described how Cha- 
pin walked out with his pistols and rescued me, 
and how Master Ford cut the ropes with his knife, 
just as if lie was mad. 

LAWSOIs's EIDE. 123 

By this time Lawson liad returned. lie liad to 
regale tliem with an account of his trip to the Pine 
Woods — h(»w the broAvn mule bore hi;u fas^ter than 
a " streak o' lightnin" — how he astonished everybody 
as he flew along — how Master Ford started right 
away — how he said Piatt was a good nigger, and 
they shouldn't kill him, concluding with pretty strong 
intimations that there was not another human being 
in the wide world, wdio could have created such a 
universal sensation on the road, or performed sucli a 
marvelous John Gilpin feat, as he had done that day 
on the brown mule. 

Tlie kind creatures loaded me M'ith the expression 
of their sympathy — saying, Tibeats was a hard, cruel 
man, and hoping " Massa Ford" would get me back 
again. In this manner they passed the time, discus- 
sing, chatting, talking over and over again the exci- 
ting affair, until suddenly Chapin presented himself 
at the cabin door and called me. 

" Piatt," said he, " you will sleep on the floor in the 
great house to-night ; bring your blanket with you." 

I arose as quickly as I was able, took my blanket 
in my hand, and followed him. On the way he in- 
formed me that he should not wonder if Tibeats was 
back again before morning — that he intended to kill 
me — and that he did not mean he should do it with- 
out witnesses. Had he stabbed me to the heart in 
the presence of a hundred slaves, not one of them, by 
the laws of Louisiana, could have given evidence 
against him. I laid down on the floor in the " great 

12-4 twt:lve tears a slate. 

house" — tlie llrst aiul tlio last time sucli a sumptu- 
ous restiiii;' place Avas <;Taiite(l ine tluriii{^ my twelve 
years of hnudai^e — and tried to sk'op. Near midnight 
the dog began to bark. Cliai)in amse, looked from 
the window, but could discover nothing. At length 
the dog was quiet. Ashe returned to his room, he said, 

" I believe, Piatt, that scoundrel is skulking about 
the premises si miewhere. If the dug barks again, and 
I am slee}>ing, wake me."' 

I promised to do so. After the lapse of an hour or 
more, the dog re-commenced his clamor, running 
towards the gate, then back again, all the while bark- 
ing furi<.uisly. 

Chapin was out of bed without waiting to be called. 
On this occasion, he stepped forth upon the piazza, 
and remained standing there a considerable length of 
time. Xothing, however, was to be seen, and the 
dog returned to his kennel. AVe were not disturbed 
again during the night. The excessive \Kun that I 
sutiered, and the dread of some impending danger, 
prevented any rest whatever. AVhether or Tiot Tibe- 
ats did actually return to the jdantation that night, 
seeking an o])])ortunity to wreak his vengeance u})on 
me, is a secret known only to himself, perhaps. I 
thought then, however, and have the strong im])res- 
sion still, that he was there. At all events, lie had 
the disposition of an assassin — cowering before a 
brave man's words, but ready to strike his helpless or 
unsuspecting victim in the back, as I had reason af- 
terwards to know. 

cnAPiN's ^vi'rEAE.v:s^cE. 125 

At cl;i_vli^-ht in tlic morning, I arose, sore and wea- 
ry, having rested little. Xeverthelcss, after partaking 
breakfast, wliieli ]Mary and Eliza had prepared for me 
in the cabin, I proceeded to the "weaving house and 
commenced the labors of another day. It was Cha- 
pin's practice, as it is the practice of overseers gen- 
erally, immediately on arising, to bestride his horse, 
always saddled and bridled and ready for him — ■ 
the })articnlar business of some slave — and ride into 
the field. This morning, on the contrary, he came to 
the weaving liouse, asking if I had seen anything of 
Til)eats yet. Keplying in the negative, he remarked 
there was something not right about the fellow — ■ 
there was bad blood in him- — -tluit I must keep a 
sharp watch of him, or he would do me wrong some 
day when I least expected it. 

AVhile he was yet speaking, Tibeats rode in, hitched 
his horse, and entered the house. I had little fear of 
him while Ford and Chapin were at hand, but they 
could not be near me always. 

Oh ! how heavily the weight of slavery pressed 
upon me then. I must toil day after day, endure 
abuse and taunts and scoifs, sleep on the hard ground, 
live on the coarsest fare, and not only this, but live 
the slave of a blood-seeking wretch, of whom I must 
stand henceforth in continued fear and dread. Why 
had I not died in my young years — before God had 
given me children to love and live for? What un- 
happiness and suffering and sorrow it would have 
prevented. I sighed for liberty ; but the bondman's 


chain was round nie, and could not be shaken oflf. I 
coiihl only f^aze wistl'iilly towards the North, and 
tliink of the thousands of miles that stretched between 
nie and the soil of freedom, ov^er "vvhich a Uach free- 
man mav not pass. 

Tibeats, in the couree of lialf an hour, ■walked over 
to the ■\vcaving-house, looked at me sharply, then re- 
turiKMl without sayin<^ anything. Most of the fore- 
noon lie sat on the piazza, reading a newspaper and 
conversing with Ford. After dinner, the latter left 
for the Pine AVoods, and it was indeed with regret 
that I behold him (U-part from the ])lantation. 

Once more during the day Tibeats came to me, 
gave me some order, and returned. 

During the week the weaving-house was completed 
— Tibeats in the meantime making no allusion what- 
ever to the dithculty — when I wa^s informed he had 
hired me to Peter Tanner, to work under another car- 
penter by the name of Myers. This announcement 
was received with gratification, as any place was de- 
sirable that would relieve me of his hateful presence. 

Peter Tanner, as the reader has already been in- 
formed, lived on the opposite shore, and was the broth- 
er of Mistress Ford. He is one of the most- extensive 
planters on Bayou Coeuf, and owns a large number 
of slaves. 

Over I went to Tanner's, joyfully enough. He had 
heard of my late difhculties — in fact, I ascertained 
the flogging of Tibeats was soon blazoned far and wide. 
This ati'air, together with my rafting experiment, had 


rcnJcrctl me somcvdiat notorious. More than once I 
heard it said that Piatt Ford, now Piatt Tibeats — a 
slave's name changes v.'ith his change of master — was 
" a devil of a nigger." Bnt I was destined to make a 
still further noise, as will presently be seen, through- 
out the little world of Bajou Boiuf. 

Peter Tanner endeavored to impress upon me the 
idea that he was quite severe, though I could per- 
ceive there was a vein of good humor in the old fel- 
low, after all. 

" You're the nigger," he said to me on mj arrival 
— " You're the nigger that flogged your master, eh? 
You're the nigger that kicks, and holds carpenter 
Tibeats by the leg, and wallops him, are ye ? Pdlike 
to see you hold me by the leg — I should. You're a 
'portant character — 'you're a great nigger — very re- 
markable nigger, ain't ye? I'^d lash you — /V7 take 
the tantrums out of ye. Jest take hold of my leg, if 
vou please. Kone of your pranks here, my boy, re- 
member that. ISTow go to work, you Idck'in^ rascal," 
concluded Peter Tanner, unable to suppress a half- 
comical grin at his own wit and sarcasm. 

After listening to this salutation, I was taken charge 
of by Myers, and labored under his direction for a 
month, to his and my own satisfaction. 

Like AYilliam Ford, his brother-in-law. Tanner was 
in the habit of reading the Bible to his slaves on the 
Sabbath, but in a somewhat different spirit. He was 
an impressive commentator on the Xew Testament. 
The first Sunday after my coming to the plantation, 


lie called tliem together, and becan to read the twelfth 
chapter of Luke. When he came to the 47th verse, 
lie looked deliberately around hiin, and continued — 
" And that servant which knew his lord's ?/.v7/," — here 
he paused, lookluL^ around more deliberately than be- 
fore, and again proceeded — "which knew his lord's 
iv'dl, and jjrejxi red not himself" — here was another 
pause — '•'• jprc pared not himself, neither did according 
to his will, shall l)e beaten with many dripc^P 

" D'ye hear that \ " demanded Peter, emphatically. 
^^ Stripes,''' he repeated, slowly and distinctly, taking 
off his S2')ectacles, j^treparatory to making a few re- 

''That nigger that don't take care — that don't obey 
his lord — that's his master — d'ye see ? — that ^ej^e 
nigger shall be beaten Avith many stripes. Kow, 
'many' signifies a great many — forty, a hnndred, 
a hundred and iifty lashes. Tlaifs Scripter ! " and so 
Peter C(^ntinued to elucidate the subject fn' a great 
length of time, much to the edification of his sable 

At the conclusion of the exercises, calling up three 
of his slaves, AVarner, Will and Major, he cried out 
t*) me — 

" Here, Piatt, you held Tibeats by the legs ; now PU 
see if you can hold these rascals in the same way, till 
I get back fn^m meet in'." 

Thereupon he ordered them to the stocks — a com- 
mon thing on plantations in the Ped River country. 
The stocks arc formed of two planks, the lower one 


made fast at the ends to two sliort posts, driven firmly 
into tlie ground. At regular distances half circles 
are cut in the upper edge. The other plank is fas- 
tened to one of the posts hj a hinge, so that it can be 
opened or shut down, in tlie same manner as the blade 
of a pocket-knife is shut or opened. In the lower edge 
of the u]')por plank corresponding half circles are also 
cut, so that wlien they close, a row of holes is formed 
large enough to admit a negro's leg above the ankle, 
but not large enough to enable him to draw out his 
foot. The other end of the upper plank, opposite the 
hinge, is fastened to its post by lock and key. The 
slave is made to sit upon the ground, when the upper- 
most plank is elevated, his legs, just above the ankles, 
placed in the sub-half circles, and shutting it down 
again, and locking it, he is held secure and fast. Very 
often the neck instead of the ankle is enclosed. In 
this manner they are held during the operation of 

Warner, "VYill and Major, according to Tanner's ac- 
count of them, were melon-stealing, Sabbath-break- 
ing niggers, and not approving of such wickedness, ho 
felt it his duty to pnt them in the stocks. Handing 
me the key, himself, Myers, Mistress Tanner and the 
children entered the carriage and drove away to 
church at Cheney ville. \Vlien they were gone, the 
boys begged me to let them out. I felt sorry to see 
them sitting on the hot ground, and remembered my 
own sufferings in the sun. Upon their promise to re- 
turn to the stocks at any moment they were required 
F* 9 


to do so, I ciiiisoutc'd to ri'leaso tlicuL Gnitoful for 
tlie lenity shown them, and in oihUt in some meas- 
ure to repay it, tliey conld do no less, of course, 
tlian pilot mo to the melon-i)atch. Shortly before 
Tanner's return, tliey were in the stocks again. 
Finally he drove Uj), and lookin:^ at the boys, said, with 
a chuckle, — 

" Aha ! ye havn't been strolling' al)Out much to-day, 
anyway. /7/ teach you what's what. 7 7/ tire ye 
of eating water-melons on the Lord's day, ye Saljl)ath- 
brcaking niggers." 

Peter Tanner prided himself uj>on his strict religious 
observances : he was a deacon in the church. 

But I have now reached a point in the progress of 
my narrative, when it becomes necessary to turn away 
from tlicse liglit descriptions, to the more grave and 
weighty matter of the second battle with ]\[aster Tib- 
eats, and the flight through the great Pacoudrie 









At the end of a montli, my services l)eing no lon- 
ger required at Tanner's I was sent over tlie bayou 
again to my master, wliom I found engaged in build- 
ing tlie cotton press. Tliis was situated at some dis- 
tance from the great house, in a rather retired place. 
I commenced working once more in company with 
Tibeats, being entirely alone with him most part of 
the time. I remembered the words of Chapin, his 
precautions, his advice to beware, lest in some unsus- 
pecting moment lie might injure me. Tliey were al- 
ways in my mind, so that I lived in a most uneasy 
state of api^rehension and fear. One eye was on my 
work, the other on my master. I determined to give 
him no cause of offence, to work still more diligently, 


if pnssiLlo, tliaii I had done, to bear wliatever abuse 
}ie iiii^-]it bi-aj) ii}m»u lue, save bodily injury, liumblj 
and patiently, lioj)ing tlierel)y to soften in some de- 
gree his manner towards nie, nntil the blessed time 
mi^^'ht Come "svhen I shouhl be delivered from his 

The third morning after my return, Chapin left the 
jdantation for Cheneyville, to be absent until nig-ht. 
Tibeats, on that morning, was attacked with one of 
those periodical fits of spleen and ill-humor to whicli 
he was frerpiently subject, rendering him still more 
disagreeable and venomous than usual. 

It was about nine o'clock in the forenoon, Avhen I 
was busily employed with the jack-plane on one of the 
sweeps. Tibeats M'as standing by the work-bench, 
fitting a handle into the chisel, with wliich he had 
been engaged previously in cutting the thread of the 

" You are not planing that down enough," said he. 

"It is just even with the line,'- I reidied. 

" You're a d — d liar," he exclaimed jjassionately. 

" Oh, well, master," I said, mildly, " I will plane it 
down more if you say so," at the same time proceed- 
ing to do as I su}i}>osed he desired. Before one sha- 
ving had been removed, however, he cried out, say- 
ing I had now jdaned it too deep — it was too small 
— I had spoiled the sweep entirely. Then followed 
curses and imprecations. I liad endeavored to do ex- 
actly as he directed, but nothing would satisfy the un- 
reasonable man. In silence and in dread I stood by the 


sweep, liolding tlie jack-plane in my liand, notknow- 
ino; what to do, and not darino- to be idle, llis ano-er 
grew more and more violent, nntil, finally, with an 
oath, such a hitter, frightful oath as only Tibeats could 
nttcr, he sei;ied a hatchet from the work-l)cnch and 
darted towards me, swearing he would cut my head 

It was a moment of life or death. The sharp, bright 
blade of the hatchet glittered in the sun. In another 
instant it would be buried in my brain, and yet in 
that instant — so quick will a man's thoughts come to 
him in such a fearful strait — I reasoned with my- 
self. If I stood still, my doom was certain ; if I fied, 
ten chances to one the hatchet, flying from his hand 
with a too-deadly and unerring aim, would strike me 
in the back. There was but one course to take. 
Springing towards him with all my power, and meet- 
ing him full half-way, before he could bring down the 
blow, with one hand I caught his uplifted arm, with 
the other seized him by the throat. "We stood look- 
ing each other in the eyes. In his I could see mur- 
der. I felt as if I had a ser]3ent by the neck, watch- 
ing the slightest relaxation of my gripe, to coil itself 
round my body, crushing and stinging it to death. I 
thought to scream aloud, trusting that some ea* might 
catch the sound — but Chapin was away; the hands 
were in the field ; there was no living soul in sight 
or hearing. 

The good genius, which thus far 'through life has 
saved me from the hands of violence, at that moment 


sug2:esto(l a lucky tli<)ni!:lit. "With a vic^orous and 
sudden kick, that brDii^-ht him on one knee, with a 
groan, I released my hohl upon his throat, snatched 
the hatchet, and east it beyond reach. 

Frantic with rage, maddened beyond control, he 
seized a white oak stick, five feet long, perhaps, and 
as large in circumference as his hand conld grasp, 
which was lying on the ground. Again he rushed 
towards me, and again I met him, seized him about 
the waist, and being the stronger of the two, bore 
him to the earth. AVhile in that position I obtained 
possession of the stick, and rising, cast it from me, 

lie likewise arose and ran for the broad-axe, on the 
work-bench. Fortunately, there was a heavy jdank 
lying npon its broad Idade, in such a manner that he 
could not extricate it, before I had sprung nj^on his 
back. Pressing him down closely and heavily on the 
plank, so that the axe was held more firmly to its 
p)lace, I endeavored, but in vain, to break his grasp 
upon the handle. In that position we remained some 

There have been hours in my nidiapj^y life, many 
of them, when the contemplation of death as the end 
of earthly sorrow — of the grave as a resting place 
for tlie tired and worn out body — has been pleasant 
to dwell upon. But such contemjdations vanish in the 
hour of peril. Xo man, in his full strength, can 
stand undismayed, in the presence of the " king of 
terrors." Life is dear to every living thing; the 


■worm tliat crawls upon the ground will struggle for 
it. At tluit moineut it was dear to me, enslaved and 
treated as I was. 

Xot aide to unloose his hand, once more I seized 
him 1)V the throat, and this time, with a vicedike 
gripe that soon relaxed his hold, lie became pliant 
and unstrung. His face, that had heen white with 
passion, was now black from suffocation. Tliose small 
serpent eyes that spat such venom, were now full of 
horror — two great white orbs starting from their 
sockets ! 

Tliere was " a lurking devil" in my heart that 
prompted me to kill the human blood-hound on the 
spot — ■ to retain the gripe on his accursed throat till 
the breath of life was gone ! I dared not murder 
him, and 1 dared not let him live. If I killed him, 
my life must pay the forfeit — if he lived, my life 
only would satisfy his vengeance. A voice within 
whispered me to fly. To be a wanderer among the 
swamps, a fugitive and a vagabond on the face of 
the earth, was preferable to the life that I was lead- 

My resolution was soon formed, and swinging him 
from the work-bench to the ground, I leaped a fence 
near by, and hurried across the plantation, passing 
the slaves at work in the cotton field. At the end of 
a fpuirter of a mile I reached the wood-pasture, and 
it was a short time indeed that I had been running 
it. Climbing on to a high fence, I could see the 
cotton press, the great house, and the space between. 


It "sviisa citnspic\ious position, from whence the whole 
plantation was in view. I saw Tibeats cross the field 
towards the house, and enter it — then he came out, 
carrying his saddle, and presently mounted his horse 
and galloj^ed away. 

I was desolate, but thaidci'ul. Tluinkful that my 
life was spared, — desolate and discouraged with the 
prospect before me. What would become of me ? 
Who would befriend me? Whither should I fly ? 
Oh, God ! Thou who gavest me life, and imjdanted 
in my bosom the love of life — who filled it with 
emotions such as other men, thy creatures, have, do 
not foi"sake me. Have pity on the poor slave — let 
me not perish. If thou dost not protect me, I am 
lost — lost! Such supplications, silently and uuut- 
tercd, ascended from my inmost heart to Heaven. 
But there was no answering voice — no sweet, low 
tone, coming down from on high, whispering to my 
Boul, " It is I, be not afraid." I was the forsaken of 
God, it seemed — the despised and hated of men! 

In about three-fourths of an hour several of tho 
slaves shouted and made signs for me to run. l*res- 
ently, looking up tlie bayou, I saw Tibeats and two 
othei's on horse-back, coming at a fast gait, followed 
by a troop of dogs. There were as many as eight or 
ten. Distant as I was, I knew them. They belonged 
on the adjoining i)hintati^>n. The dogs used on Bayou 
Ba'uf for hunting slaves are a kind of blood-hound, 
but a far more savage breed than is found in the 
Northern States. They will attack a negro, at their 


master's biddinu-, and cliiip^ to liiiu as the common 
bull-doo; will clino; to a tViur footed animal. Fre- 
qnently their lond Lav is beard in tlie swamps, and 
then there is specnlation as to what point the rnnaway 
will be overhauled — the same as a iSTew-York hunter 
stops to listen to the hounds coursing along the hill- 
sides, and suggests to his companion that the fox will 
be taken at such a place. I never knew a slave es- 
caping with his life from Bayou Boeuf. One reason 
is, the J are not allowed to learn the art of swimming, 
and are incapable of crossing the most inconsiderable 
stream. In their flight they can go in no direction 
but a little way without coming to a bayou, when the 
inevitable alternative is presented, of being disowned 
or overtaken by the dogs. In youth I had practised 
in tlic clear streams that flow t]n-c>ugh my native dis- 
trict, nntil I had become an expert swimmer, and felt 
at home in the watery element. 

I stood upon the fence nntil the dogs had reached 
tlie cotton press. In an instant more, their long, sav- 
age yells aimounced they were on my track. Leap- 
ing down from my position, I ran towards the swamp. 
Fear gave me strength, and I exerted it to the ntmost. 
Every few moments I could hear the yelpings of the 
dogs. Tliey were gaining upon me. Every howl 
was nearer and nearer. Each moment I exj^ected 
they would spring upon my back — expected to feel 
their long teeth sinking into my flesh. Tliere were 
so many of them, I knew they would tear me to jiic- 
cesj that they would worry me, at once, to death. I 


gasped for Lrcatli — gasped forth a lialt-uttered, clic- 
king prayer totlie Almighty to save iiie — to give me 
strength to reach some wide, deep hayou where I 
conld tlirow them off the track, or sink into its wa- 
ters. Presently I reached a thick palmetto bottom. 
As I fled througli thi'iii they made a loud rustling 
noise, not loud enougli, howevei", to drown the voices 
of the dogs. 

Continuing my course due south, as nearly as lean 
judge, I came at length to water just over shoe. 
The hounds at that moment could not have been five 
rods behind me. I could hear them crashing and 
jilunging througli the palmettoes, their loud, eager 
yells making the whole swamp clamorous with the 
sound. Hope revived a little as I reached the water. 
If it were only deeper, they might loose the scent, and 
thus disconcerted, afford me the opportunity of eva- 
ding them. Luckily, it grew deeper the farther I 
proceeded — now over my ankles — now half-way to 
my knees — now sinking a moment to my waist, and 
then emerging presently into more shallow places. 
The dogs had not gained upon me since I struck the 
water. Evidently they were confused. Xow their 
savage intonations grew more and more distant, as- 
suring me that I was leaving them. Finally I stop- 
ped to listen, but the long howl came booming on the 
air again, telling me I was not yet safe. From bog to 
l>og, where I had stepped, they could still keep uj^on 
the track, though impeded by the Avater. At length, 
to my great joy, I came to a wide ];ayou, and plung- 


ing in, had soon stonnncd its slnggish current to the 
otlier side. Tlicre, certainly, the dogs wouhl he con- 
fonndcd — the current carrying down the stream all 
traces of that slight, mysterious scent, which enables 
the qnick-smelling hound to follow in the track of the 

After crossing this hayou the water hecame so 
deep I could not run. I was now in what I after- 
wards learned was the " Great Pacoudrie Swamp." 
It was filled with immense trees — the sycamore, the 
gum, the cotton wood and cypress, and extends, I am 
informed, to the shore of the Calcasieu river. For 
thirty or forty miles it is without inhabitants, save 
wild beasts — the bear, the wild-cat, the tiger, and 
great slimy rej^tiles, that are crawling through it 
everywhere. Long before I readied the bayou, in 
fact, from the time I struck the water until I emer- 
ged from the swamp on my return, these reptiles 
surrounded me. I saw hundreds of moccasin snakes. 
Every log and bog — every trunk of a fidlen tree, 
over which I was compelled to step or climb, was 
alive with them. They crawled away at my ap- 
proach, but sometimes in my haste, I almost placed 
my hand or f<:)ot upon them. They are poisonous 
serpents— their bite more tatal than the rattlesnake's. 
Besides, I had lost one shoe, the sole having come 
entirely ofl', leaving the upper only dangling to my 

I saw also many alligators, great and small, lying 
in the water, or on pieces of floodwood. The noise I 


made usually startled tbem, when they moved off and 
plunged into the deepest places. Sometimes, how- 
ever, I would come directly upon a monster before 
ohserviiiij; it. In such cases, I would start liack, run 
a short way round, and in that manner shun them. 
Straight forward, they will run a short distance rapidly, 
hut do not possess the power of turning. In a crook- 
ed race, there is no difficulty in evading them. 

About two o'clock in the afternuim, I heard the 
last of the hounds. Probably they did not cross the 
bayou. Wet and weary, but relieved from the sense 
of instant peril, I continued on, more cautious and 
afraid, however, of the snakes and alligators than I 
had been in the earlier portion of my flight. Kow, 
before stepping into a muddy pool, I would strike 
the water with a stick. If the waters moved, I woidd 
go around it, if not, would venture through. 

At length the sun went down, and gradually night's 
trailing mantle shrouded the great swamp in dark- 
ness. Still I staggered on, fearing every instant I 
should feel the dreadful sting of the moccasin, or be 
crushed within the jaws of some disturbed alligator. 
The dread of them now almost equaled the fear of 
the pursuing hounds. Tlie moon arose after a time, 
its mild light creeping through the overspreading 
branches, loaded with long, pendent moss. I kept 
traveling forwards until after midnight, hoping all 
the wliile that I would soon emerge into some less 
desolate and dangerous region. But the water grew 
deeper and the walking more difficult than ever. 1 


perceived it would be impossible to 2")rocced much 
farther, and knew not, moreover, what hands I might 
fall into, should I succeed in reaching a human hab- 
itation. ISTot provided with a pass, any white man 
would be at liberty to arrest me, and place me in 
prison until such time as my master should' " prove 
property, pay charges, and take me away." I was an 
estray, and if so unfortunate as to meet a law-abiding 
citizen of Louisiana, he M'ould deem it his duty to his 
neighbor, perhaps, to put me forthwith in the pound. 
Keally, it was difficult to determine which I had most 
reason to fear — dogs, alligators or men ! 

After midnight, however, I came to a halt. Ima- 
gination cannot picture the dreariness of the scene. 
The swamp was resonant with the quacking of innu- 
merable ducks ! Since the foundation of the earth, 
in all probability, a human footstep had never before 
so far penetrated the recesses of the swamp. It was 
not silent now — silent to a degree that rendered it 
oppressive, — as it was when the sun was shining in 
the heavens. My midnight intrusion had awakened 
the feathered tribes, which seemed to throng the mo- 
rass in hundreds of thousands, and their garrulous 
throats poured forth such multitudinous sounds — 
there was such a fluttering of wings — such sullen 
plunges in the water all around me — that I was af- 
frighted and a2')palled. All the fiwls of the air, and 
all the creeping things of the earth appeared to have 
assembled together in that particular place, for the 
purpose of filling it with clamor and confusion. JSTot 


1)V human dwellings — not in crowded cities alone, 
arc the sights and sounds of life. The wildest places 
of the earth are full of them. Even in the heart of 
that dismal swamp, (iod had provided a refuge and a 
dwelling place I'or millions of living things. 

The moon had now risen ahove the trees, Avhen I 
resolved upon a new project. Thus far I had endeav- 
ored to travel as nearly south as possible. Turning 
about I proceeded in a north-west direction, my ob- 
ject being to strike the l*ine AVoods in the vicinity of 
Master Ford's. Once within the shadow of his pro- 
tection, I felt I would be comparatively safe. 

]\[y cli>thes wi're in tatters, my hands, lace, and 
body covered with scratches, received from the sharp 
knots of fallen trees, and in climbing over piles of 
brnsh and iloodwood. My bare foot was full of thorns. 
I was besmeared with muck and mud, and the green 
slime that had collected on the surface of the dead 
water, in which I had been immersed to the neck 
many times during the day and night. Hour after 
hour, and tiresome indeed had they become, I contin- 
ued to plod along on my north-west course. Tlie wa- 
ter began to grow less deep, and the ground more firm 
under my feet. At last I reached the Pacouch-ie, the 
same wide bayou I had swam while " outward 
bound." I swam it again, and shortly after thought 
I heard a cock crow, but the sound was Ifjiint, and it 
might have been a mockery of the ear. The water 
receded from my advancing footsteps — now I had 
left the bogs behind me — now I was on dryland 


that crraduallv ascended to the phiiii, and I knew I 
was somewhere in the " Great Pine Woods." 

Just at day-break I caiue to an opening — a sort of 
small plantation — but one I had never seen before. 
In the edge of tlie woods I came upon two men, a 
slave and his youno' master, en2:ao:ed in catching wild 
hogs. Tlic white man I knew would demand my 
pass, and not able to give him one, would take me 
into possession. I was too wearied to run again, and 
too desperate to be taken, and therefore adopted a 
ruse that proved entirely successful. Assuming a 
fierce expression, I walked directly towards him, look- 
ing him steadily in the tace. As I approached, ho 
moved backwards with an air of alarm. It was plain 
he was much affrighted — that he looked upon me as 
some infernal goblin, just arisen from the bowels of 
the swamp ! 

""Where does William Ford live? " I demanded, in 
no gentle tone. 

" He lives seven miles from here," was the reply. 

" Which is the way to his place 'i " I again demand- 
ed, trying to look more fiercely than ever. 

"Do you see those pine trees yonder?" he asked, 
pointing to two, a mile distant, that rose far above 
their fellows, like a couple of tall sentinels, overlook- 
ing the broad expanse of forest. 

" I see them," was the answer. 

" At the feet of those pine trees," he continued, 
" runs the Texas road. Turn to the left, and it wiU 
lead you to William Ford's." 


Without further parh?y, I hastened forward, liappy 
as he was, no d()nl)t, to ]>!ace the widest possihle dis- 
tance between us. Strikini;- tlic Texas road, I turned 
to the left hand, as directed, and soon j)assed a great 
fire, where a i)ile of h)gs were hurning. 1 went to it, 
tliinking I wouhl dry my chjthes ; hut the gray light 
of the morning was fast breaking away, — some j)ass- 
ing white man might observe me ; besides, the heat 
overpowered me with the desire of sleep : so, linger- 
ing no longer, I continued my travels, and finally, 
about eight o'clock, reached the house of Master Ford. 

The slaves were all absent from the quarters, at 
their M'ork. Stepping on to. the piazza, I knocked at 
the door, which was soon opened by Mistress Ford, 
My aj^pearancc was so changed — I was in such awo- 
begune and foi'lorn condition, she did not know me. 
In( juiring if Master Ford was at home, that good man 
made his appearance, before the question could be 
answered. I told him of my flight, and all the par- 
ticulars connected with it. lie listened attentively, 
and when I had concluded, spoke to me kindly and 
sympathetically, and taking me to the kitchen, called 
John, and ordered him to prepare me food. I had 
tasted nothing since daylight the previous morning. 

When John had set the meal before me, the madam 
came out with a bowl of milk, and many little deli- 
cious dainties, such as rarely please the palate of a 
slave. I was hungry, and I was weary, but neither 
food nor rest afibrded half the pleasure as did the 
blessed voices speaking kindness and consolation. It 


•was the oil and the wine wliich the Good Samaritan 
in the " Great Pine Woods " was ready to pour into 
the wounded spirit of the slave, who came to him, 
stripped of his raiment and half-dead. 

They left me in the cabin, tliat I might rest. Blessed 
be sleep ! It visiteth all alike, descending as the dews 
of heaven on the bond and free. Soon it nestled to my 
bosom, driving away the troubles that oppressed it, and 
bearing me to that shadowy region, where I saw again 
the faces, and listened to the voices of my children, 
who, alas, for aught I knew in my waking hours, had 
fallen into the arms of that other sleep, from which 
they never would arouse. 

G 10 













After a long sleep, sometime in tlie afternoon I 
awoke, refreshed, but very sore and stitf. Sally came 
in and talked "with me, while John cooked me some 
dinner. Sally was in great trouble, as well as myself, 
one of her children being ill, and she feared it could 
not survive. Dinner over, after Avalking about the 
quarters for a while, visiting Sally's cabin and looking 
at the sick child, I strolled into the madam's garden. 
Though it was a season of the year when the voices 
of the birds are silent, and the trees are stripped of 
their summer glories in more frigid climes, yet the 
whole variety of roses were then blooming there, and 

THE mistress' GARDEN. 14:Y 

tlie long, luxiTrlant vines creeping over the frumes. 
The crimson andgoklen fruit hnng half hidden amidst 
the younger and older blossoms of the peach, the or- 
ange, the plum, and the pomegranate ; for, in that 
region of almost jierpetual warmth, the leaves are 
falling and the Luds bursting into bloom the whole 
year loiig. 

I indulged the most grateful feelings towards Mas- 
ter and Mistress Ford, and -wishing in some manner 
to re})ay their kindness, commenced trimming the 
vines, and afterwards weeding out the grass from 
among the orange and pomegranate trees. The latter 
grows eight or ten feet high, and its fruit, though lar- 
ger, is similar in appearance to the jelly-flower. It 
has the luscious flaA^or of the strawberry. Oranges, 
peaches, plums, and most other fruits are indigenous 
to the ricli, warm soil of Avoyelles ; but the apple, the 
most common of them all in colder latitudes, is rare- 
ly to be seen. 

Mistress Ford came out presently, saying it was 
praise-worthy inme, buti wasnot in a condition to la- 
boi", and might rest myself at the quarters until mas- 
ter should go diiwn to Bayou Breuf, which would not 
be tliat day, and it might not l)e the next. I said to 
her — to l)e sui'e, I felt l)ad, and was stiff, and that 
my foot pained nje, the stubs and thorns having so 
torn it , Ijut thought such exercise would not hurt 
me, and that it was a great pleasure to work for so 
good a mistress. Thereuj^on she returned to the great 
house, and for three days I was diligent in the garden, 


cloaiiinii; tlie walks, weeding tlic ilower beds, and 
pulling u}) tlie rank grass l»eneatli the jessamine vines, 
wliieh the gentle and generous hand of mv protectress 
had taught to chunher along the walls. 

The fourth morning, having become recruited and 
refreshed, ]\Iaster Ford ordered me to malvC ready to 
accompany him to the bayou. Tliere was but one 
saddle horse at the oi)ening, all the others with 
the mules having been sent down to the ])lantation, 
I said I could walk, and bidding Sally and John good- 
bye, left the opening, trotting along by the horse's 

That little paradise in the Great Pine Woods was 
the oasis in the desert, towards which my heart turn- 
ed lovingly, during many years of bondage. I went 
forth from it Jiow with regret and sorrow, not so over- 
whelming, however, as if it had then been given me 
to know that I should never return to it again. 

IMaster Ford urged me lo take his place occasion- 
ally on the horse, to rest me ; but I said no, I was not 
tired, and it was better for me to M'alk than him. He 
said many kind and cheering things to me on the way, 
riding slowly, in order that I might keep pace with 
him. The goodness of God was manifest, he declared, 
in my miraculous escape from the swamp. As Dan- 
iel came f )rth unharmed from the den of lions, and 
as Jonah had been ]»rescrved in the whale's belly, 
even so had I been delivered from evil by the Al- 
mighty, lie interrogated me in regard to the various 
fears and emotions I had experienced during the day 

ford's EEilARKS ON TIIE WAT. 149 

and night, and if I liad felt, at any time, a desire to 
pray. I felt forsaken of the whole world, I answered 
him, and was praying mentally all the while. At 
such times, said he, the heart of man turns instinct- 
ively towards his Maker. In prosperity, and when 
there is nothing to injure or make him afraid, he re- 
members Him not, and is ready to defy Him ; but 
place him in the midst of dangers, cut him oif from 
human aid, let the grave open before him — then it 
is, in the time of his tribulatioi], that the scofier and 
"unbelieving man turns to God fur help, feeling there 
is no other hope, or refuge, or safety, save in his pro- 
tecting arm. 

So did that benignant man speak to me of this life 
and of the life hereafter ; of the goodness and power 
of God, and of the vanity of earthly things, as we 
journeyed along the solitary road towards Bayou 
Bffiuf. ^ 

When within some five miles of the plantation, we 
discovered a horseman at a distance, galloping tow- 
ards us. As he came near I saw that it was Tibeats ! 
He looked at me a moment, but did not address me, 
and turning about, rode along side by side with Ford. 
I trotted silently at their horses' heels, listing to their 
conversation. Ford informed him of my arrival in 
the Pine "Woods three days before, of the sad plight I 
was in, and of the difficulties and dangers I had en- 

" Well," exclaimed Tibeats, omitting his usual oaths 
in the presence of Ford, " I never saw such running 


before. I'll bet liliu aixainst a liinidred dollars, lic'll 
beat any iii>^g"er in J.ouisiana. I ottered Joliii David 
Cheney twenty-tive dollars to catch liini, dead or alive, 
but he outran his dogs in a fair I'ace. Them Cheney 
doi^s ain't much, after all. ])unwoQdie's liounds 
would have had him down heft 're he touched the pal- 
mettoes. Somehow the dogs got off the track, and we 
liad to give up the liunt. AVc rode the Imrses as far 
as we could, and then kejit on i'oot till the Avater -was 
three feet dee}». The l)oyssaid lu; was drowned, sure. 
I allow I Avanted a shot at him mightily. Ever since, 
I have been riding u]) and down the l)ayou, but had'nt 
much hope of catching him — thought ho was dead, 
sarihi. Oh, he's a cuss to run — that nigger is !" 

In tliis way Tibeats ran on, describing his search in 
the swamp, the wt)nderful speed Avith Avliich I had 
fled before the hounds, and Avhen he had liuished, 
Master Ford responded by saying, I had always been 
.1 Avilling and faithful boy Avith him ; that he Avas sor- 
ry Ave had such trouble ; that, according to Piatt's 
story, he had been inhumanly treated, and that he, 
Til)eats, Avas himself in fault, losing hatchets and 
broad-axes upon slaves Avas shameful, and should nctt 
be allowed, he renuxrked. ''This is no Avay of dealing 
Avith them, Avhen first brought into the country. It 
Avill have a pernicious influence, and set them all run- 
ning aAvay. The swamps Avill be full of them. A lit- 
tle kindness Avould be far more eftectual in restraining 
them, and rendering them obedient, than the use of 
such deadly Aveapons. Every planter on the bayou 


sliould frown upon sncli inhumanity. It is for the in- 
terest of all to do so. It is evident enough, Mr. Tib- 
eats, that jou and Piatt cannot live together. You 
dislike hira, and would not hesitate to kill him, and 
knowing it, he will run from you again tlirough fear 
of his life. Xow, Tibeats, you must sell him, or hire 
him out, at least. Unless yon do so, I shall take 
measures to get him out of your possession." 

In this spirit Ford addressed him the remainder of 
the distance. I opened not my mouth. On reaching 
the plantation they entered the great house, while I 
repaired to Eliza's cabin. Tlie slaves were astonish- 
ed to find me there, on returning from the field, sup- 
posing I was drowned. That night, again, they gath- 
ered aljout the cabin to listen to the story of my 
adventure. Tliey took it for granted I would be whip- 
ped, and that it would be severe, the well-known pen- 
alty of running away being five hundred lashes. 

" Poor fellow," said Eliza, taking me by the hand, 
" it would have been better for you if you had drown- 
ed. You have a cruel master, and he will kill you 
yet, I am afraid." 

Lawson suggested that it might be, overseer Cha- 
pin would be appointed to inflict the punishment, in 
which case it would not be severe, whereupon Mary, 
Eachel, Bristol, and others hoped it would be Master 
Ford, and then it would be no whipping at all. They 
all pitied me and tried to console me, and were sad in 
view of the castigation that awaited me, except Ken- 
tucky John, There were no bounds to his laughter ; 


lie filled the caliiii with cachiiiiiatiniis, lidhlin^liis sides 
to prevent an e.\i>losi«in, and tlie cause of his noisy 
mirth was the idea of my outstrI])pin<^- tlie hounds. 
Somehow, he looked at the subject in a comical light. 
" I I'fiow'd dey wouhrnt cotch him, when he run cross 
de phmtation. (), de lor', did'nt Piatt ])ick his feet 
right np, tho', hey ? "When deni dogs got wliar he 
•was, he was'nt da/' — haw, haw, haw ! O, de Igr' a' 
mity!" — and then Kentucky John relapsed into an- 
other of his boisterous tits. 

Early the next morning, Tibeats left the plantation. 
In the course of the forenoon, while sauntering alxHit 
the gin-house, a tall, good-looking man came to me, 
and inquired if I was Tibeats' boy, that youthful ap- 
pellation being applied iuliscriminately to slaves 
even though they may have passed the number of 
three score years and ten. I took off my hat, and an- 
swered tliat I was. 

" How would you like to work for me V he in- 

" Oh, I would like to, very much," said I, inspired 
■with a sudden hope of getting away from Tibeats. 

" You worked uiuler Myers at Peter Tanner's, didn't 
you ? " 

I re])lied I had, adding some coinplimentary re- 
marks that Myers had nuide concerning me. 

"Well, boy," said he, " I ha\e liired you of your 
master to work for jue in the '' Big Cane l>rake," 
thirty-eight miles from here, down on lied River." 

This man was Mr. Eldret, who lived below Ford's, 


on the same side of tlie linjon. I accompanied liim 
to liis plantation, and in the morning started with his 
slave Sam, and a Avagon-load of provisions, drawn l)y 
four mules, for the Big Cane, Eldret and Myers liav- 
ing preceded us on horseback. This Sam was a na- 
tive of Charleston, where he had a mother, brother 
and sisters. He " allowed " — a common word among 
both black and white — that Tibeats was a mean man, 
and lioped, as I most earnestly did also, that his mas- 
ter would buy me. 

We proceeded down the south shore of the bayou, 
crossing it at Carey's j^lantation ; from thence to Huff 
Power, passing which, we came n2:)on the Bayou 
Kouge road, which runs towards Red Eiver. After 
2)assing through Bayou Tiouge Swamp, and just at 
sunset, turning from the highway, we struck off into 
the " Big Cane Brake." We followed an imbeaten 
track, scarcely wide enough to admit the wagon. 
Tlie cane, such as are used for fishing-rods, were as 
thick as they could stand. A pei-son could not be 
seen through them the distance of a rod. The paths 
of wild beasts run through them in various directions 
■ — the bear and the American tiger abounding in these 
brakes, and wherever there is a basin of stagnant wa- 
ter, it is full of alligators. 

We kept on our lonely coui'se through the " Big 
Cane " several miles, when we entered a clearing-, 
known as " Sutton's Field." Many yeai*s before, a 
man by the name of Sutton had penetrated the wilder- 
ness of cane to this solitary place. Tradition has it. 


lluit lie iled tliitlicr, a fugitive, ii<:>t from service, "but 
from justice. Jlere he lived alone — recluse and her- 
mit of the swamp — with his own hands planlin<^- the 
seed and i^atherino; in the harvest. One day a band 
of Indians stole n])on his solitude, and after a bloody 
battle, overpowered and massacred him. For miles 
the country round, in the slaves' quarters, and on the 
piazzas of " great houses," where Avhite children listen 
to superstitious tales, the story goes, that that spot, in 
the heart of the " liig Cane," is a liaunted place. For 
more than a quarter of a century, hunum voices had 
rarely, if ever, disturbed the silence of the clearing. 
Hank and noxious weeds had overspread the once cul- 
tivated lield — serpents sunned themselves on the door- 
way of the crumbling cabin. It was indeed a dreary 
picture of desolation. 

Passing " Sutton's Field," we followed a new-cut 
road two miles farther, which brought us to its ter- 
mination. "We had now reached the wild lands of 
Mr. Eldret, where he contemplated clearing up an 
extensive plantation. We went to work next morn- 
ing Avith our cane-knives, and cleared a suflicient 
space to allow the erection of two cabins — one for 
Myers and EldiHit, the other for Sam, myself, and the 
slaves that M'ere to join us. AVe were now in the 
midst of trees of enormous growth, whose wide-spread- 
inir branches almost shut out the li^ht of the sun, 
while the space between the trunks was an impervi- 
ous mass of cane, with here and there an occasional 


Tliebcay and the sycamore, the oak and the cypress, 
reach a growtli unparalleled, in those fertile lowlands 
bordering the Red River. From every tree, moreover, 
liang long, large masses of moss, presenting to the eye 
unaccustomed to them, a striking and singular appear- 
ance. This moss, in lai'ge (}uantities, is sent north, 
and there used for manufacturing purposes. 

We cut down oaks, split them into rails, ami with 
these erected temporary cabins. We covered the 
roofs with the broad palmetto leaf, an excellent sub- 
stitute for shingles, as long as they last. 

The greatest annoyance I met with here were small 
flies, gnats and mosquitoes. They swarmed the air. 
They penetrated the porches of the ear, the nose, the 
eyes, the mouth. They sucked themselves beneath 
the skin. It was impossible to brush or beat them 
off. It seemed, indeed, as if they would devour us- — - 
carry us away piecemeal, in their small tormenting 

A lonelier spot, or one more disagreeable, than the 
centre of the " Big Cane Brake," it would be diiiicult 
to conceive ; yet to me it was a paradise, in compari- 
son with any other place in the com})any of Master 
Tibeats. I labored hard, aild oft-times was weary and 
fatigued, yet I could lie down at night in peace, and 
arise in the morning without fear. 

In the course of a f u-tnight, four black girls came 
down from Eldret's plantation — ^ Charlotte, Fanny, 
Cresia and Nelly. They were all large and stout. 
Axes were put into tlieir hands, and they were sent 


out witli Sam tiiul invsell' to cut trees. Tlicy wero 
excelleat choppers, the largest oak or sycamore stand- 
ing but a Ijrief season Ijctbre their heavy and well- 
directed blows. At pilin<>; logs, they \vere ecpial to 
any man. There are lumherwomen as well as him- 
Lermen in the forests of the South. In fact, in the 
region of the Bayou Bujuf they i")erform their share of 
all the la1)or required on the plantation. They plough, 
drag, drive team, clear wild lands, work on the higli- 
way, and so forth. Some planters, owning large cot- 
ton and sugar plantations, have none other than the 
labor of slave women. Such an one is Jim Burns, 
who lives on the north shore of the bayou, opposite 
the plantation of John Fogaman. 

On our arrival in the brake, Eldret promised me, 
if I worked well, 1 might go up to visit my friends at 
Ford's in four weeks. On Saturday night of the iifth 
week, I reminded him of his promise, when he told 
me I had done so Avell, that I might go. I had set 
my heart upon it, and KMret's announcement thrilled 
me with pleasure. I was to return in time to com- 
mence the labors of the day on Tuesday morning. 

While indulging the pleasant antieii)ation of so soon 
meeting my old friends again, suddenly the luiteful 
ft)rm of Tibeats appeared among us. ITe inquired 
how ]^^yers and Blatt got along together, and was 
told, very well, and that IMatt wius going up to Ford's 
plantation in the morning (.»n a visit. 

" Boh, poll ! " sneered Tibeats ; '' it isn't worth while 
— the nigger will get imsteady. Ho can't go." 


But Eldret insisted I had worked faitlifullv — that 
lie had giveu me his promise, and that, under the cir- 
cumstances, I ought not to be disajipointed. They 
then, it being about dark, entered one cabin and I 
the other. I could not give up the idea of going ; it 
was a sore disappointment. Before morning I resolved, 
if Eldret made no objection, to leave at all hazards. 
At daylight I was at his door, with my blanket rolled 
np into a bundle, and hanging on a stick over my 
shoulder, waiting for a pass. Tibeats came out pre- 
sently in one of his disagreeable moods, washed his 
face, and going to a stump near by, sat down upon it, 
aj)parently busily thinking with himself. After stand- 
ing there a long time, impelled by a sudden impulse 
of impatience, I started oil". 

" Are you going without a pass ? " he cried out 
to me. 

" Yes, master, I thought I would," I answered. 

" How do you think you'll get there ? " demanded 

'• Don't know," was all the, reply I made him. 

" You'd be taken and sent to jail, where you ought 
to be, before you got half-way tliere,'' he added, pass- 
ing into the cabin as he said it. He came out soon, 
with the pass in his hand, and calling me a " d — d nig- 
ger tliat deserved a hundred lashes," threvv^ it on the 
ground. I picked it up, and hurried away right 

A slave caught off his master's plantation without 
a pass, may be seized and whipped by any white man 

158 Twi:r,vK years a si-ave. 

•w'lioni liL' nieetrf. The one I now received was dated, 
and reatl as follows : 

'' riatt lias permission to go to Ford's plantation, 
on JJayou Bu3uf, and return bj Tuesday morning. 

John M. Tideats." 

Tliis is the usual form. On the way, a great many 
demanded it, read it, and passed on. Tliose having 
the air and a])})earance of gentlemen, whose dress 
. indicated the possession of wealth, frerpiently took no 
notice of me Avhatever ; but a shabby fellow, an un- 
mistahalde loafer, never failed to hail me, and to 
scrutinize and examine me in the most thorough man- 
ner. Catching runaways is sometimes a money-mak- 
ing business. If, after advertising, no owner appears, 
they may be sold to the highest bidder; and certain 
fees are allowed the finder for his services, at all 
events, even if reclaimed. "A mean white," there- 
fore, — a name ap})lied to the species loafer — con- 
siders it a god-send to meet an unknown negro with- 
out a pass. 

Tliere are no inns along the highways in that por- 
tion of the State where I sojourned. I was wholly 
destitute of money, neither did I carry any provisions, 
on my journey from the Dig Cane to Jxiyou Bceuf ; 
nevertheless, with liis pass in his hand, a slave need 
never suft'er from hunger or from thirst. It is only 
necessary to present it to the master or overseer of a 
2)lantation, and state his Avants, when he will be sent 
round to the kitchen and provided with food or shel- 
ter, as the case may rerpiire. The traveler stops at 


any house and calls tor a meal with as mncli freedom 
as if it was a public tavern. It is the general custom 
of the countrj. Whatever their faults may be, it is 
certain the inhabitants along Red River, and around 
the bayous in the interior of Lijuisiana are not want- 
ing in hospitality. 

I arrived at Ford's plantation towards the close of 
tlie afternoon, passing the evening in Eliza's cabin, 
with Lawson, Rachel, and others of my acrpiaintance. 
When we left AVashington Eliza's form was round and 
pluni}). She stood erect, and in her silks and jewels, 
]n'esented a picture of graceful strength and elegance. 
ISTow she was but a thin shadow of her former self. 
Her face had become ghastly haggard, and the once 
straight and active form was bowed down, as if bear- 
ing the weight of a huiulred years. Crouching on her 
cabin floor, and clad in the coarse garments of a slave, 
old Elisha Berry would not have recognized the moth- 
er of his child. I never saw her afterwards. Having 
become useless in the cotton-field, she was bartered 
for a trifle, to some man residing in the vicinity of 
Peter Compton's. Grief had gnawed remorselessly at 
her heart, until lier strength was gone ; and for that, 
her last master, it is said, lashed and abused her most 
unmercifully. But he could not whip back the de- 
parted vigor of her youth, nor straighten up that bend- 
ed body to its full height, such as it was when her 
children were around her, and the light of freedom 
was shining on her path. 

I learned the particulars relative to her departure 


from this world, from some of Compton's slaves, wlio 
Lad fonie over Eed lliver to tlic Lnyou, to assist 
youiii^' Madam Tanner durin<j^ the " busy season." 
She hecanu' at kMii^-tli, tlicy said, utterly heliiless, for 
several weeks lyini^ on the ground floor in a dilajiida- 
ted cabin, dependent uj)on the mercy of her fellow- 
thralls tor an occasional drop of water, aiul a morsel 
of fond. IK-r nuister did not "knock lier on the 
head,-' as is sometimes done to put a sulferinii; animal 
out of miseiy, but left her unprovided for, and unpro- 
tected, to linger through a life of pain and wretched- 
ness to its mitural close. AVlien the hands returned 
from the field one night they found her dead ! Du- 
ring the day, the Angel of tlie Lord, who moveth in- 
visibly over all the earth, gathering in his harvest of 
departing souls, had silently entered the cabin of the 
dying M'oman, and taken lier from thence. She Avas 
free at last ! 

Kext day, rolling up my blanket, I started on my 
return to the Big Cane. After traveling five miles, 
at a place called Ilufl" Power, the ever-present Tibe- 
ats met me in the road. lie inquired why I was go- 
ing back so soon, and when informed I was anxious 
to return by the time I was directed, he said I need 
go no farther than the next plantation, as he luidthat 
day sold me to Edwin Epps. AVe walked down into 
the yard, Avhere we met the latter gentleman, who ex- 
amined me, and asked me the usual questions pro- 
pounded by purchasers. Having been dul}^ delivered 
over, I was ordered to the quarters, and at the same 


time directed to make a lice and axe handle for my- 

I was now no longer the property of Tibeats — his 
dog, his brute, dreading his wrath and cruelty day 
and night ; and whoever or whatever my new master 
might prove to be, I could not, certainly, regret the 
change. So it was good news when the sale was an- 
nounced, and with a sigh of relief I sat down for the 
first time in my new abode. 

Tibeats soon after disappeared from that section of 

the country. Once afterwards, and only once, I 

caught a glimpse of him. It was many miles from 

Bayou Boeuf. He was seated in the doorway of a 

low groggery. I was passing, in a drove of slaves, 

thi'ough St. Mary's parish. 











Ed"^tn Epps, of wlioni mucli will Le said during 
tlie remainder of tins liistory, is a large, portly, Leavy- 
bodied man with light hair, high cheek bones, and a 
Roman nose of extraordinary dimensions. He has 
blue eyes, a fair complexion, and is, as I should say, 
full .i„v feet high. He has the sharp, incpiisitive ex- 
pression of a jochcy. His manners are repulsive 
and coarse, and his language gives speedy and une- 
quivocal evidence that he has never enjoyed the ad- 
A'antages of an education. He has the faculty of 
saying most provoking things, in that resjiect even 
excelling old Peter Tanner. At the time I came into 
his possession, Edwin Ej)ps was fond of the bottle, his 

HABrrS OF EDWIN EPrs. 163 

" sprees" sometimes extending over tlie space of two 
whole weeks. Latterlj-, however, he had reformed 
his habits, and when I left him, was as strict a speci- 
men of temperance as could be found on Bajou 
Boeuf. AVhen '* in his cups," Master Epps was a roys- 
tering, blustering, noisy fellow, whose chief delight 
was in dancing with his " niggers," or lashing them 
about the yard witli his long whip, just for the pleas- 
m'e of hearing them screech and scream, as the great 
welts were planted on their backs. "When sober, he 
was silent, reserved and cunning, not beating us in- 
discriminately, as in his drunken moments, but send- 
ing the end of his rawhide to some tender spot of a 
lagging slave, with a sly dexterity peculiar to himself. 

He had been a driver and overseer in his younger 
years, but at this time w^as in possession of a planta- 
tion on Bayou Huff Power, two and a half miles from 
Holmesville, eighteen from Marksville, and twelve 
from Cheney ville. It belonged to Josejjh B. Boberts, 
his wife's uncle, and was leased by Epps. His prin- 
cijjal business was raising cotton, and inasmuch as 
some may read this book who have never seen a cot- 
ton field, a description of the manner of its culture 
may not be out of place. 

The ground is prepared by throwing up beds or 
ridges, with the plough — back-furroAving, it is called. 
Oxen and mules, the latter almost exclusively, are 
used in ploughing. The women as frequently as the 
men perlbrm this labor, feeding, currying, and ta- 
king care of their teams, and in all respects doing tho 


field anil staMo work, precisclj as do the plonglibojs 
of the Jsorth. 

The beds, or rid<i:es, are six feet Avide, that is, from 
water furrow to Nvater furrow. A plough drawn by 
one mule is thiMi run along the top of the ridge or 
center of the bed, making the drill, into which a girl 
usually drops the seed, which she carries in a bag 
hung round her neck. Behind her comes a mule 
and liarrow, covering up the seed, so that two mules, 
three shives, a plough and harrow, are employed 
in planting a row of cotton. This is done in the 
months of March and April. Corn is planted in Feb- 
ruary. When there are no cold rains, the cotton usu- 
ally makes its appearance in a week. In the course 
of eight or ten days afterwards the first hoeing is 
commenced. This is performed in part, also, by the 
aid of the plough and mule. The plough passes as 
near as possible to the cotton on both sides, throw- 
ing the furrow from it. Slaves follow with their hoes, 
cutting uj) the grass and cotton, leaving hills two feet 
and a halt' apart. This is called scraping cotton. In 
two weeks more commences the second hoeing. 
This time the furrow is thrown towards the cotton. 
Only one stalk, the largest, is now left standing in 
each hill. In another fortnight it is hoed the third 
time, throwing the furrow towards the cotton in the 
same manner as before, and killing all the grass be- 
tween the rows. About the first of July, when it is 
a foot high or thereabouts, it is hoed the fourth and 
last time, Kow the whole space between the rows 


is plouglied, leaving a deep water furrow in tlie center. 
During all these lioeings the overseer or driver 
follows the slaves on horseback with a whip, such as 
has been described. The tastest hoer takes the lead 
row. He is nsnallj about a rod in advance of his 
companions. If one of them passes him, he is whip- 
j)ed. If one falls behind or is a moment idle, he is 
whipped. Li fact, the lash is flying from morning 
until night, the whole day long. The hoeing season 
thus continues from April until Jnly, a field having 
no sooner been finished once, than it is commenced 

In the latter j^art of August begins the cotton pick- 
ing season. At this time each slave is presented 
with a sack. A strap is fastened to it, which goes 
over the neck, holding the mouth of the sack breast 
high, while the bottom reaches nearly to the ground. 
Each one is also presented with a large basket that 
will hold about two barrels. This is to put the cotton 
in when the sack is filled. The baskets are carried 
to the field and placed at the beginning of the rows. 

When a new hand, one unaccustomed to the busi- 
ness, is sent for the first time into the field, he is 
whipped up smartly, and made for that day to pick 
as fast as he can possibly. At night it is weighed, 
so that his capability in cotton picking is known. 
He must bring in the same weight each night follow- 
ing. If it falls short, it is considered evidence that 
he has been laggard, and a greater or less number 
of lashes is the penalty. 


An ortl'inary day's work is two hundred ponnds. 
A sliiA'c Avho is acciistoined to picking, is punished, 
if lie or she hriiigs in a k^ss quantity than that. 
There is a great difference among them as regards 
this kind of hil)ur. Some of them seem to have a 
natural knack, or quickness, which enables them to 
])ick M-ith great celerity, and with ])i>tli Iiands, while 
others, with wliatever practice or industry, are utterly 
unable to come u]) to the ordinary standard. Such 
hands are taken from the cott(m held and employed 
in other business. Patsey, of whom I shall have 
more to say, was known as the most renuirkalde cot- 
ton picker on Bayou Boeuf. She picked M'ith both 
hands and with such surprising rapidity, that five 
liundred pounds a day was not unusual fir her. 

Each one is tasked, therefore, according to his 
picking abilities, none, however, to come short of two 
liundred weight. I, being unskillful always in that 
business, would have satisfied my master by bringing 
in the latter quantity, while on the other hand, Pat- 
sey would surely have been beaten if she failed to 
produce twice as much. 

The cotton grows from five to seven feet high, each 
stalk having a great many branches, shooting out in 
all directions, and hipping each other above the wa- 
ter furrow. 

There are few siglits more pleasant to the eye, 
than a wide cotton field when it is in the bloom. It 
presents an appearance of ]»urity, like an immaculate 
expanse of light, new-fallen snow. 


Sometimes the slave picks down one side of a row, 
and back npon the other, but more usually, there is 
one on either side, gathering all that has blossomed, 
leaving the unopened bolls for a succeeding picking. 
AVhen the sack is tilled, it is emptied into the basket and 
trodden down. It is necessary to be extremely care- 
ful the lirst time going through the field, in order not 
to break the branches off the stalks. The cotton 
will not bloom upon a broken branch. Epps never 
failed to inflict the severest chastisement on the un- 
lucky servant who, either carelessly or unavoidably, 
was guilty in the least degree in this respect. 

The hands are required to be in the cotton field as 
soon as it is light in the morning, and, with the ex- 
ception of ten or fifteen minutes, which is given them 
at noon to swallow their allowance of cold bacon, 
they are not permitted to be a moment idle until it 
is too dark to see, and when the moon is full, they 
often times labor till the middle of the night. They 
do not dare to stop even at dinner time, nor retm-n 
to the cpiarters, however late it be, until the order to 
halt is given by the di-iver. 

The day's work over in the field, the baskets are 
" toted," or in other words, carried to the gin-house, 
where the cotton is weighed. 'No matter how fa- 
tigued and weary he may be — no matter hov^ much 
he longs for sleep and rest — a slave never approaches 
the gin-house with his basket of cotton but with fear. 
K it falls short in weight — - if he has not performed 
the full task appointed him, he knows that he must 


Bufier. And if lie lias exceeded it Lj ten or twenty 
poimds, in all prtjbubility Lis master will measure tho 
next day's task accordingly. So, whether he has too 
little or too much, his approach to the gin-house is 
always with fear and trembling. Must frequently 
they have too little, and therefore it is they are not 
anxious to leave the Held. After weighing, fulluw tho 
whippings ; and then the baskets are carried to tho 
cotton house, and their contents stored away like hay, 
all hands being sent in to tramp it down. If the cut- 
ton is not dry, instead of taking it to the gin-house 
at once, it is laid upon platforms, two feet high, and 
some three times as wide, covered with boards or 
plank, with narrow walks running between them. 

Tliis done, the labor of the day is not yet ended, by 
any means. Each one must then attend to his re- 
spective chores. One feeds the mules, another the 
swine • — another cuts the wood, and so forth ; besides, 
the packing is all done by candle light. Finally, at 
a late hour, they reach the cpiarters, sleepy and over- 
come with the long day's toil. Then a lire must bo 
kindled in the cabin, the corn ground in the small 
hand-mill, and supper, and dinner for the next day in 
the field, prepared. All that is allowed them is corn 
and b:ici»n, which is given out at the corncrib and 
smoke-house every Sunday moi-ning. Each one re- 
ceives, as his weekly allowance, three and a half 
pounds of bacon, and corn enough to make a j^eck of 
meal. That is all — no tea, coflee, sugar, and with 
the exception of a very scanty sprinkling now and 

CABIiSr LIFE. 169 

then, no salt. I. can sav, from a ten years' residence 
witli Master Epps, tliat no slave of Lis is ever likely 
to sufier from tlie gont, snperinduced by excessive 
liigli living. Master Epps' hogs were fed on shelled 
corn — it was thrown out to his "niggers" in the 
ear. The former, he thought, would fatten faster by 
shelling, and soaking it in the water — the latter, 
perhaps, if treated in the same manner, might grow 
too fat to labor. Master Epps was a shrewd cal- 
culator, and knew how to manage his own animals, 
drank or sober. 

The corn mill stands in the yard beneath a shelter. 
It is like a common coflee mill, the hopper holding 
about six quarts. There was one privilege which 
Master Epps granted freely to every slave he had. 
They might grind their corn nightly, in such small 
quantities as their daily wants required, or they 
might grind the whole week's allowance at one time, 
on Sundays, just as they preferred, A very gener- 
ous man was Master Epj)s ! 

I kept my corn in a snuill wooden box, the meal in 
a gourd ; and, by the way, the gourd is one of the 
most convenient and necessary utensils on a planta- 
tion. Besides supplying the place of all kinds of 
crockery in a slave cabin, it is used for carrying 
water to the fields. Another, also, contains the din- 
ner. It dispenses with tlie necessity of pails, dippers, 
basins, and such tin and wooden superfluities alto- 

AVhen tlio corn is ground, and fire is made, the 


bacon is taken down from tlio nail on -wliicli it liangs, 
a slice cut off and thrown upon the coals to broil. 
The majority of slaves have no knife, much less a 
fork. They cut their bacon with the axe at the wood- 
pile. The corn meal is mixed Avith a little water, 
placed in the fire, and baked. Wht'ii it is "done 
brown," the ashes are scraped off, and bein^- ])laced 
upon a chip, which answers for a table, the tenant of 
the slave hut is ready to sit down upon the ground to 
supper. By this time it is usually midnight. The 
same fear of punishment with which they approach, 
the gin-house, possesses them again on lying down to 
get a snatch of rest. It is the tear of oversleeping in 
the morning. Such an offence would certainly be 
attended with not less than twenty lashes. With a 
prayer that he may be on his feet and w-ide awake at 
the first sound of the horn, he sinks to his slumbers 

The softest couches in the world are not to be found 
in the log mansion of the slave. The one whereon I 
reclined year after year, was a plank twelve inches 
wide and ten feet long. My pillow was a stick of 
wood. Tlie bedding was a coarse blanket, and not a 
rag or shred beside. Moss might be used, were it not 
that it directly breeds a swarm of fleas. 

The cabin is constructed of logs, Avithout floor or 
M'indow. The latter is altogether unnecessary, the 
crevices between the logs admitting sufficient light. 
In stormy weather the rain drives through them, 
rendering it comfortless and extremely disagreeable. 

THE slave's labors. 171 

Tlie nide door hangs on o-reat wooden liinges. In one 
end is constructed an awkward fire-place. 

An hour before day liglit the horn is blown. Then 
the slaves arouse, prepare their breakfast, fill a gourd 
with water, in another deposit their dinner of cold 
bacon and corn cake, and hurry to the field again. 
It is an ofience invariably followed by a flogging, to 
be found at the cpiarters after daybreak. Then the 
fears and labors of another day begin ; and until its 
close there is no such thing as rest. He fears he will 
be caught lagging through the day ; he fears to 
approach the gin-house with his basket-load of cotton 
at night ; he fears, when he lies down, that he will 
oversleep himself in the morning. Such is a true, 
faithful, unexaggerated picture and description of 
the slave's daily life, during the time of cotton-pick- 
ing, on the shores of Bayou Bceuf. 

In the month of January, generally, the fourth and 
last picking is completed. Then commences the har- 
vesting of corn. This is considered a secondary crop, 
and receives far less attention than the cotton. It is 
planted, as already mentioned, in February. Corn is 
grown in that region for the purpose of fattening 
hogs and feeding slaves ; very little, if any, being sent 
to market. It is the white variety, the ear of great 
size, and the stalk growing to the height of eight, 
and often times ten feet. In August the leaves are 
stripped off, dried in the sun, boimd in small bundles, 
and stored away as provender for the mules and oxen. 
After this the slaves go through the field, turning 


down tlie ear, Inr the purpose of keeping tlie rains 
from penetrating to tlie grain. It is left in this condi- 
tion until after cotton-picking is over, wlietlier earlier 
or later. Then the ears are separated from the stalks, 
and deposited in the cornerib with the husks on; 
otlierwise, stripped of the husks, the weevil would 
destroy it. The stalks are left standing in the field. 

Tlie Carolina, or sweet potato, is also grown in that 
region to some extent. They are not fed, however, 
to hogs or cattle, and are considered but of small im- 
portance. They are preserved by placing them ujion 
the surface of the ground, with a slight covering of 
earth or cornstalks. Tliere is not a cellar on Bayou 
Bceuf. Tlie ground is so low it would fill with water. 
Potatoes are worth from two to three "bits," or 
shillings a bai'rel ; corn, except when there is an 
unusual scarcity, can be purchased at the same rate. 

As soon as the cotton and corn crops are secured, 
the stalks are pulled up, thrown into piles and burned. 
Tlie ploughs are started at the same time, throwing 
up the beds again, preparatory to another planting. 
The soil, in the i)arishes of Eaj^ides and Avoyelles, 
and tliroughout the whole country, so far as my obser- 
vation extended, is of exceeding richness and fertility. 
It is a kind of rtiarl, of a brown or reddish color. It 
does not require those invigorating composts neces- 
sary to more barren lands, and on the same field the 
same croj) is grown for many successive years. 

Ploughing, planting, picking cotton, gathering the 
corn, and pulling and burning stalks, occupies the 


whole of the four seasons of the year. Drawing- and 
cutting wood, pressing cotton, fattening and killing 
hogs, are but incidental labors. 

In the month of September or Octol)er, the hogs 
are run out of the swamps by dogs, and confined in 
pens. On a cold morning, generally about Xew 
Year's day, they are slaughtered. Each carcass is 
cut into six jiarts, and piled one above the other in 
salt, upon large tables in the smoke-house. Li this 
condition it remains a fortnight, when it is hung up. 
and a fire built, and continued more than half the 
time during the remainder of the year. This thorough 
smoking is necessary to prevent the bacon from be- 
coming infested with worms. In so warm a climate 
it is diflicult to preserve it, and very many times my- 
self and my companions have received our weekly 
allowance of three pounds and a half, when it was 
full of these disgusting vermin. 

Although the swamps are overrun with cattle, they 
are never made the source of profit, to any considera- 
ble extent. The planter cuts his mark upon the ear, 
or brands his initials upon the side, and turns them 
into the swamps, to roam unrestricted within their 
almost limitless confines. They are the Spanish breed, 
small and spike-horned. I have known of droves 
being taken from Bayou Boeuf, but it is of very rare 
occurrence. The value of the best cows is about five 
dollars each. Two cpiarts at one milking, would be 
considered an unusual largo quantity. Tliey furnish 
little tallow, and that of a soft, inferior quality. Not- 

174 T\Vf:i.\ K YKARS A SLAVT!. 

"withstandin*:; the !j;reat niiniber of ci»ws that throng 
the swamps, the phinters arc indebted to the Xorth 
for their cheese and butter, which is purchased in the 
Kew-Orleans market. Salted beef is not an article of 
food either in the great house, or in the cabin. 

Master E])ps was accustomed to attend shooting 
matches for the purpose of obtaining what fresh beef 
he required. These sports occurred weekly at the 
neighboring village of Ilolmesville. Fat beeves are 
driven thither and shot at, a stipulated price being 
demanded for the privilege. The lucky marksman 
divides the llesh among his fellows, and in this man- 
ner the attending planters are sui)plied. 

The great number of tame and nntamed cattle 
which swarm the woods and swamps of Bayou Boeuf, 
most probaldy suggested that appellation to the 
French, inasmuch as the term, translated, signifies the 
creek or river of the wild ox. 

Garden products, such as cabbages, turnfixs and the 
like, are cultivated for the use of the master and his 
family. They have greens and vegetables at all times 
and seasons of the year. " The grass withereth and 
the flower fadeth*' before the desolating winds of au- 
tumn in the chill northern latitudes, but perpetual 
verdure overspreads the hot lowlands, and flowers 
bloom in the heart of winter, in the region of Bayou 

There are no meadows appropriated to the cultiva- 
tion of the grasses. The leaves of the corn supply a 
Bufficiency of food fur the laboring cattle, while the 


rest provide for tliemsclves all the year in the ever- 
growing pasture. 

There are many other peculiarities of climate, 
habit, custom, and of the manner of living and labor- 
ing at the South, but the foregoing, it is supposed, 
"will ffive the reader an insiii'ht and general idea of 
life on a cotton plantation in Louisiana. The mode 
of cultivating cane, and the process of sugar manu- 
facturing, will be mentioned in another place. 













On' my arrival at Master Epps', in oLedience to liis 
order, the first business npon -wliich I entered was tlio 
making of an axe-lielve. The handles in nse tliere 
are simply a round, straight stick. I made a crooked 
one, shaped like those to which I had been accustom- 
ed at the North. "When finished, and presented to 
Epps, he looked at it with astonishment, unable to 
determine exactly what it was. lie had never before 
seen such a handle, and when I explained its conveni- 
ences, he was forcibly struck with the novelty of the 
idea. lie kept it in the house a long time, and when his 
fiiends called, was wont to exhibit it as a curiosity. 

It was now the season of hoeing. I was first sent 


into the corn-field, and after^vards set to scraping cot- 
ton. In tills employment I remained nntil hoeing 
time was nearly passed, when I began to experience 
the symptoms of approaching illness. I was attacked 
with chills, which were succeeded by a burning fever. 
I became weak and emaciated, and frequently so diz- 
zy that it caused rae to reel and stagger like a drunk- 
en man. Nevertheless, I was compelled to keep up 
my row. AYhen in health I found little difficulty in 
keeping pace with my fellow-laborers, but now it 
seemed to be an utter impossibility. Often I fell be- 
hind, when the driver's lash was sure to greet my 
back, infusing into my sick and drooping body a little 
temporary energy. I continued to decline until at 
length the wdiip became entirely ineiiectual. The 
sharpest sting of the rawhide could not arouse me. 
Finally, in September, when the busy season of cotton 
picking was at hand, I was unable to leave my cabin. 
Up to this time I had received no medicine, nor any 
attention from my master or mistress. The old cook 
visited me occasionally, preparing me corn-coffee, and 
sometimes boiling a bit of bacon, when I had grown 
too feeble to accomplish it m^^self 

When it was said that I would die, Master Epps, 
unwilling to bear the loss, which the death of an ani- 
mal worth a thousand dollars would bring upon him, 
concluded to incur the expense of sending to Holmes- 
ville for Dr. Wines. He announced to Epps that it 
was the effect of the climate, and there was a proba- 
bility of his losing me. He directed nie to eat no 
H* ^ 12 


meat, and to partake of no more food than was abso- 
lutely necessary to sustain life. Several weeks elaps- 
ed, durinjT: which time, under the scanty diet to which 
I was sul)jected, I had partially recovered. One 
morning, long before I was in a proj)er condition to 
labor, Epps appeared at the cabin door, and, present- 
ing me a sack, ordered me to the cotton field. At this 
time I had had no exj^ericnce whatever in cotton pick- 
ing. It was an awkward business indeed. AVhilo 
others used both hands, snatching the cotton and de- 
positing it in the mouth of the sack, with a precision 
and dexterity that was incomprehensible to me, I 
had to seize the boll with one hand, and deliberately 
draw out the white, gushing blossom with the other. 
Depositing the cotton in the sack, moreover, was a 
difficulty that demanded the exercise of both hands 
and eyes. I was compelled to pick it from the ground 
where it would fall, nearly as often as from the stalk 
where it had grown. I made havoc also with the 
branches, loaded willi the yet unbroken bolls, the 
long, cumbersome sack swinging from side to side in 
a manner not allowable in the cotton field. After a 
most laborious day I arrived at the gin-house with my 
load. AVhen the scale determined its weight to be 
only ninety-live pounds, not half the quantit}^ required 
of the poorest picker, Epps threatened the severest 
flogging, but in consideration of my being a " raw 
hand," concluded to pardon me on that occasion. 
The following day, and many days succeeding, I re- 
turned at uitcht with no better success — I was evi- 


dently not designed for tliat kind of labor. I had not 
the gift — the dexterous fingers and quick motion of 
Patsey, who conhl flj along one side of a row of cot- 
ton, stripping it of its nndefiled and fleecy whiteness 
miraculously fast. Practice and whipping were alike 
nnavailing, and Epps, satisfied of it at last, swore I was 
a disgrace — that I was not fit to associate with a cot- 
ton-picking "nigger" — ^that I could not pick enough 
in a day to pay the trouble of weighing it, and that I 
should go into the cotton field no more. I was now 
employed in cutting and hauling wood, drawing cot- 
ton from the field to the gin-house, and performed 
whatever other service Avas rer^uired. Suffice to say, 
I was never permitted to be idle. 

It was rarely that a day passed by without one or 
more whippings. This occurred at the time the cot- 
ton was weighed. The delinquent, whose weight liad 
fallen short, was taken out, stripped, made to lie upon 
the ground, face downwards, when he received a pun- 
ishment proportioned to his oftence. It is the literal, 
unvarnished truth, that the crack of the lash, and 
the shrieking of the slaves, can be heard from dark 
till bed time, on Epps' jjlantatiou, any day almost 
during the entire period of the cotton-picking season. 

Tlie number of lashes is graduated according to the 
nature of the case. Twenty-five are deemed a mere 
brush, inflicted, for instance, when a dry leaf or piece 
of boll is found in the cotton, or when a branch is 
broken in the field ; fifty is the ordinary penalty fol- 
lowing all delinquencies of the next higher grade ; one 


hundred is called severe: it is the punishment inflict- 
ed for the serious offence of standing idle in tlie field; 
from one hundred and fifty to two hundred is bestow- 
ed upon him who quarrels with his cahin-mates, and 
five liundred, well laid on, besides the mangling of 
the dogs, perhaps, is certain to consign the poor, un- 
pitied runaway to weeks of pain and agony. 

During the two years Epps remained on the plan- 
tatiou at Bayou Huff Power, he was in the habit, as 
often as once in a fortnight at least, of coming home 
intoxicated froni llolmosvllle. The shooting-matches 
almost invariably concluded with a debauch. At such 
times he was boisterous and half-crazy. Often he 
would break the dishes, chairs, and whatever furni- 
ture he could lay his hands on, "When satisfied M'ith 
his amusement in the house, he would seize the whip 
and walk forth into the yard. Then it behooved the 
slaves to be watchful and exceeding wary. The first 
one who came M'ithin reach felt the smart of his lash. 
Sometimes for hours he would keep them running in 
all directions, dodging around the corners of the cab- 
ins. Occasionally he would come upon one unawares, 
and if he succeeded in inflicting a fair, round blow, it 
was a feat that much delighted him, Tlie younger 
children, and the aged, who had become inactive, 
suffered then. In the midst of the confusion he would 
slily take his stand behind a cabin, waiting with rais- 
ed whip, to dash it into the first black face that peep- 
ed cautiously around the corner. 

At other times he would come home in a less brutal 


humor. Then there must be a merry-making. Then 
all must move to the measure of a tunc. Then Mas- 
ter Epps must needs regale his melodious ears "with 
the music of a fiddle. Then did he become buoyant, 
elastic, gaily " tripping the light fantastic toe" around 
the piazza and all through the house. 

Tibeats, at the time of my sale, had informed 
him I could play on the violin. lie had receiv- 
ed his information from Ford. Tln'ough the im- 
portunities of Mistress Epps, her husband had been in- 
duced to purchase me one during a visit to jS^ew-Or- 
leans. Frequently I was called into the house to play 
before the family, mistress being passionately fond of 

All of us would be assembled in the large room of 
the great house, whenever Epps came home in one of 
his dancing moods. Ko matter how worn out and 
tired we were, there must be a general dauce. When 
properly stationed on the floor, I would strike up a tune. 

" Dance, you d — d niggers, dance," Ep]Ds would 

Then there must be no halting or delay, no slow or 
languid movements ; all must be brisk, and lively, 
and alert. " Up and down, heel and toe, and away 
we go," was the order of the hour. Epps' portly form 
mingled with those of his dusky slaves, mo^■ing rap- 
idly through all the mazes of the dance. 

Usually his whip was in his hand, ready to fjill 
about the ears of the presumptuous thrall, who dared 
to rest a moment, or even stop to catch his breath. 


AVlion he was liimsclf oxliausted, there woiihl be a 
brief cessation, but it wttuhl be very brief. AVitli a 
sbish, and crack, and flourish of the wliip, he would 
shout again, '' Dance, niggers, dance," and away thej 
wuuld go once more, pell-mell, while I, spurred by an 
occasional sharp touch of the lash, sat in a corner, ex- 
tracting from my violin a marvelous cpuclc-stepping 
tunc. The mistress often upbrai<k'd him, declaring 
she would return to her father's house at Cheney ville ; 
nevertheless, there M'ere times she could not restrain 
a burst of laughter, on witnessing his uproarious 
pranks. Frerpiently, we were thus detained until al- 
most morning. I>ent with excessive toil — actually 
suffering for a little refreshing rest, and feeling rather 
as if we could cast ourselves u])on the earth and weep, 
many a night in the house of Edwin Epps have his 
unhappy slaves been made to dance and laugh. 

Notwithstanding these deprivations in order to grat- 
ify the whim of an unreasonable master, we had to 
be in the field as soon as it was light, and during the 
day perform the ordinary and accustomed task. Such 
deprivations could not be urged at the scales in exten- 
uation of any lack of weight, or in the cornfield for 
not hoeing with the usual rapidity. The whippings 
M'ere just as severe as if we had gone forth in the 
morning, strengthened and invigorated by a night's 
repose. Indeed, after such frantic revels, he was 
always more sour and savage than before, punishing 
for slighter causes, and using the whip with increased 
and more vindictive energy. 


Ten years I toiled for that man witliout reward. 
Ten jears of mj incessant labor lias contribnled to 
increase the bulk of liis possessions. Ten years I was 
compelled to address liim witli down-cast eyes and 
uncovered bead — in the attitude and language of a 
slave. I am indebted to liim for nothing, save unde- 
served abuse and stripes. 

Beyond the reach of his inhuman thong, and stand- 
ing on the soil of the free State where I was born, 
thanks be to Heaven, I can raise my head once more 
among men. I can speak of the wrongs I have suf- 
fered, and of those who inflicted them, with uj^raised 
eyes. But I have no desire to speak of him or any 
other one otherwise than truthfully. Yet to speak 
truthfully of Edwin Ej^ps would be to say — he is a 
man in whose heart the quality of kindness or of jus- 
tice is not found. A rough, rude energy, united with 
an uncultivated mind and an avaricious spirit, are his 
prominent characteristics. He is known as a " nigger 
breaker," distinguished for his faculty of subduing the 
spirit of the slave, and jd riding himself upon his repu- 
tation in this respect, as a jockey boasts of his skill in 
managing a refractory horse. He looked upon a col- 
ored man, not as a human being, responsible to his Crea- 
tor for the small talent entrusted to him, but as a " chat- 
tel personal," as mere live property, no better, except 
in value, than his mule or dog. When the evidence, 
clear and indisputable, was laid before him that I was 
a free man, and as much entitled to my liberty as he 
-— when, on the day I left, he was informed that I 


had a M'ile and c'liildreii, as dear to me as liis own 
babes to hiiu, lie oidy i-aved and swore, denouncing 
the law that tore me I'roni him, and declaring he 
"would lind out the iiuiu who had forwarded the letter 
that disclosed the place of my captivity, if there Mas 
any virtue or power in money, and would take his 
life. lie thought of nothing but his loss, and cursed 
me for having been born fi'ee. He could have stood 
nnmoved and seen the tongues of his poor slaves 
torn out by the roots — he could have seen them 
burned to ashes over a slow fire, or gnawed to death 
by dogs, if it only brought him profit. Such a hard, 
cruel, unjust man is Edwin Epps. 

There was but one greater savage on Bayou Ba-uf 
than he. Jim Burns' plantation was cultivated, as 
already mentioned, exclusively by women. That 
barbarian kept their backs so sore and raw, that they 
could not perform the customar}^ labor demanded 
daily of the slave, lie boasted of his cruelty, and 
through all the country round was accounted a more 
thorough-going, energetic man than even Epps. A 
brute himself, Jim Burns had not a particle of mercy 
for his subject brutes, and like a fool, whipped and 
scourged away the xd^vy strength upon which depend- 
ed his amount of gain. 

Epps renuiined on Ilutf Power two years, when, 
having accumulated a considerable sum of money, he 
expended it in tlie purchase of the plantation on the 
east bank of Bayou Bo^if, M'here he still continues to 
reside. lie took possession of it in 1845, after the 

UNCLE ABRAM, WU.EY, <feC. 185 

liolidavs were passed. lie carried thither with him 
nine slaves, all of whom, except myself, and Susan, 
who has since died, remain there yet. He made no 
addition to this force, and for eight years the follow- 
ing were my companions in his quarter, viz : Abram, 
"Wiley, Phebe, Boh, Henry, Edward, and Patsey. 
All these, except Edward, horn since, were purchased 
out of a drove by Epps daring the time he was over- 
seer for Archy B. Williams, whose plantation is situa- 
ted on the shore of Red River, not far from Alexan- 

Abram was tall, standing a full head above any 
common man. He is sixty years of age, and was 
born in Tennessee. Twenty yeare ago, he was pur- 
chased by a trader, carried into South Carolina, and 
sold to James Buford, of Williamsburgh county, in 
that State. In his youth he was renowned for his 
great strength, but age and unremitting toil have 
somewhat shattered his powerful frame and enfeebled 
his mental faculties. 

"VYiley is forty-eight. He was born on the estate 
of William Tassle, and for many years took charge of 
that gentleman's ferry over the Big Black River, in 
South Carolina. 

Phebe was a slave of Buford, Tassle's neighbor, 
and having married Wiley, he bought the latter, at 
her instigation. Buford was a kind master, sheriff of 
the county, and in those days a man of wealth. 

Bob and Henry arc Phebe's children, by a former 
husband, their father having been abandoned to givo 


place to ^^'iley. That seductive yontli had insinuated 
himself into Phehe's ati'ections, and therefore the 
faithless spouse had gently kicked her first husLand 
out of her cabin door. Edward had Leen born to 
them on Bayou Iluti" Power. 

I'atsey is t\venty-three — also from Puford's planta- 
tion. She is in no wise connected Avith the others, 
but glories in the fact that' she is the offspring of a 
"Guinea nigger," brought over to Cuba iu a slave 
sbij>, and in the course of trade transferred to Buford, 
who was her mother's owner. 

Tliis, as I learned from them, is a genealogical account 
of my master's slaves. For ^^ears they had been to- 
gether. Often they recalled the memories of other 
days, and sighed to retrace their steps to the old homo 
iu Carolina. Troubles came upon their master Bu- 
ford, whicli brouglit far greater troubles upon them. 
lie became involved in debt, and unable to bear up 
against bis foiling fortunes, was compelled to sell these, 
and others of his slaves. In a chain gang they had 
been driven from beyond the Mississippi to the plan- 
tation of Archy B, AVilliams, Edwin Ej^ps, who, for a 
long %vliile had been his driver and overseer, was 
about establishing himself in business on his own ac- 
count, at the time of their arrival, and accepted them 
in payment of his wages. 

Old Abram was a kind-hearted being — a sort of 
patriarch among us, fond of entertaining his younger 
brethren with grave and serious discourse. He was 
deeply versed in sucli philosoj^by as is tauglit in the 


cabin of the slave ; but tbe great absorbing liobby of 
Uncle Abram was General Jackson, wlioni bis young 
master in Tennessee bad followed to the wars, lie 
loved to wander back, in imagination, to tbe place 
wliere be was born, and to recount tbe scenes of bis 
youth during those stirring times when the nation was 
in arms, lie bad been athletic, and more keen and 
powerful than the generality of his race, but now bis 
eye bad become dim, and his natural force abated. 
Very ofteUj indeed, while discussing the best method 
of baking the hoe-cake, or expatiating at large upon 
the glory of Jackson, be would forget where be left 
bis hat, or his hoe, or his basket ; and then would the 
old man be laughed at, if Epps was absent, and whip- 
ped if he was present. So was he perplexed continu- 
ally, and sighed to think that he was growing aged 
and going to decay. Philosophy and Jackson and 
forgetfulness had played the mischief with him, and 
it was evident that all of them combined were fast 
bringing down the gray hairs of Uncle Abram to the 

Aunt Phebe had been an excellent field band, but 
latterly was put into the kitchen, where she remained, 
except occasionally, in a time of uncommon hurry. 
She was a sly old creature, and when not in the 
presence of her mistress or her master, was garrulous 
in the extreme. 

AViley, on tbe contrary, was silent. He performed 
bis task without murmur or complaint, seldom in- 
dulging in the luxury of speech, excej^t to utter a 


uish that lie was away from Epp?, and Lack oiico 
more in South Carolina. 

Bob anil Henry had reached the ages of twenty 
and twenty-three, and were distinguished for nothing 
extraordinary or unusual, while Edward, a hul of 
thirteen, not yet able to maintain his row in the corn 
or the cotton field, was kept in the great house, to 
•wait on the little Eppses. 

Patsey was slim and straight. She stood erect as 
the human form is capable of standing. There Mas 
an air of loftiness in her movement, that neither labor, 
nor weariness, nor punishment could destroy. Truly, 
Patsey was a splendid animal, and were it not that 
"bondage had enshrouded her intellect in utter and 
everlasting: darkness, would have been chief amons: 
ten thousand of her peoj)le. She could lea}) the 
highest fences, and a fleet hound it was indeed, that 
could outstrip her in a race. Xo horse could liingher 
from las back. She was a skillful teamster. She 
turned as true a furrow as the best, and at splitting 
rails there were none who could excel her. When 
the order to halt was heard at night, she would have 
her mules at the crib, unharnessed, fed and curried, 
before uncle Abram had found his hat. Not, how- 
ever, for all or any of these, was she chiefly famous. 
Such lightning-like motion was in her fingers as no 
other fingei-s ever possessed, and therefore it was, that 
in cotton picking time, Patsey was cpieen of the field. 

She had a genial and pleasant temper, and was 
faithful and obedient. Katurally, she was a joyous 


creature, a laugliin:.-, light-hearted girl, rejoicing in 
the mere sense of existence. Yet Patsey wept oftener, 
and sutitered more, than any of her companions. 
She had been literally excoriated. Her back boro 
the scars of a thousand stripes ; not because she was 
backward in her work, nor because she was of an un- 
mindful and rebellious spirit, but because it had fallen 
to her lot to be the slave of a licentious master and a 
jealous mistress. She shrank before the lustful eye of 
the one, and was in danger even of her life at the 
hands of the other, and between the two, she was 
indeed accursed. In the great house, for days together, 
there were high and angry words, j)outings and 
estrangement, wliereof she was the innocent cause, 
xs'othing delighted the mistress so much as to see her 
suffer, and more than once, when Epps had refused to 
sell her, has she tempted me with bribes to put her 
secretly to death, and bury her body in some lonely 
place in the margin of the swamp. Gladly would 
Patsey have appeased this unforgiving spirit, if it had 
been in her power, but not like Joseph, dared sho 
escape from Master Epps, leaving her garment in his 
hand. Patsey walked under a cloud. If she uttered 
a word in opposition to her master's will, the lash was 
resorted to at once, to bring her to subjection ; if she 
was not watchful when about her cabin, or when 
walking in the yard, a billet of wood, or a l)roken 
bottle perhaps, hurled from her mistress' hand, would 
smite her unexpectedly in the face. The enslaved vic- 
tim of lust and hate, Patsey had no comfort of her life. 


Tliese were my companions and iMlow-slavcp, with 
whom I Avas aecustonied to be driven to the tiekl, and 
with whom it has been my h^t to dwell for ten years 
in the lo^- cabins of EdAA-in Epps. They, if living, are 
yet toiling on the banks of Bayou Bceuf, never des- 
tined to breathe, as I now do, the blessed air of liberty, 
nor to shake off the heavy shackles that enthrall 
them, nntil they shall lie down forever in the dust. 













The first year of Epps' residence on the bajoii, 
1815, the caterpillars almost totally destroyed the 
cotton crop throiighout that region. Tliero was little 
to he done, so that the slaves were necessarily idle 
half the time. However, there came a rumor to Ba- 
you Bceuf that wages were high, and laborers in great 
demand on the sugar plantations in St. Mary's j)arish. 
This parish is situated on the coast of the Gulf of 
Mexico, about one hundred and forty miles from 
Avoyelles. The Kio Teche, a considerable stream, 
flows through St. Mary's to the gulf. 


It was cletermlnecl l)y the planters, on tlie receipt 
of tills intellii;-ence, to make up a drove of slaves to 
be sent down to Tuckapaw in St. Mary's, for the pur- 
pose of hiring them out in the cane fields. Accord- 
ingly, in the month of September, there were one 
hundred and forty-seven collected at llolmesville, 
Ahram, Bob and myself among the number. Of these 
about one-half were women. Epps, Alonson Pierce, 
Henry Toler, and Addison Koberts, were the Avhite 
men, selected to accompany, and take charge of the 
drove. Thev had a two-horse carria2:c and two sad- 
die horses I'or their use. A large wagon, drawn by 
four horses, and driven by John, a boy belonging to 
Mr. Iloberts, carried the blankets and jjrovisions. 

About 2 o'clock in the afternoon, having l>een fed, 
preparations were made to depart. The duty assign- 
ed me was, to take charge of tlie blankets and pro- 
visions, and see tluit none were lost by the way. The 
carriage proceeded in advance, the wag(in f )llowing; 
behind this the slaves were arranged, while the two 
horsemen brought up the rear, and in this order the 
procession moved out of llolmesville. 

Tluit night we reached a Mr. ^[cCrow's })lantation, 
a distance of ten or lifteen miles, when we were or- 
dered to halt. Large fires were built, and each one 
spreading his blanket on the ground, laid down upon 
it. Tlie white men lodged in the great house. An 
hour before day we were aroused by the drivers com- 
ing among lis, cracking their whips and ordering us 
to arise. Then the blankets were rolled up, and be- 


iiig severally delivered to me and deposited in the 
.wagon, tlie procession set forth again. 

The following night it rained violently. "We were 
all drenched, our clothes saturated with mud and wa- 
ter. Reaching an open shed, formerly a gin-house, we 
found beneath it such shelter as it afforded. There 
was not room for all of us to lay down. There we 
remained, huddled together, through the night, con- 
tinuing our march, as usual, in the morning. During 
the journey we were fed twice a day, boiling our 
bacon and baking our corn-cake at the fires in the 
same manner as in our huts. AVe passed through La- 
fayetteville, Mountsville, New-Town, to Centreville, 
where Bob and Uncle Abram were hired. Our num- 
ber decreased as we advanced — nearly every sugar 
plantation requiring the services of one or more. 

On our route we passed the Grand Coteau or prairie, 
a vast space of level, monotonous country, without a 
tree, except an occasional one which had been trans- 
planted near some dilapidated dwelling. It was once 
thickly populated, and under cultivation, but for some 
cause had been abandoned. Tlie business of the 
scattered inhabitants that now dwell upon it is prin- 
cipally raising cattle. Immense herds were feeding 
upon it as we passed. In the centre of the Grand 
Coteau one feels as if he were on tlie ocean, out 
of sight of land. As far as the eye can see, in all 
directions, it is but a ruined and deserted waste. 

I was hired to Judge Turner, a distinguished man 
and extensive planter, whose large estate is situated 

I 13 


on llayou Sallo, within ii few miles of the gulf. Bilj- 
oii SuUc is a small stream flowing into the bay of 
Atchafalaya. For some days I was employed at 
Turner's in repairing his sugar house, wlien a cane 
Icuife -was i)ut into my hand, and with thirty or 
forty others, I was sent into the field. I f )und no 
such dithculty in learning the art of cutting cane 
that I had in picking cotton. It came to me natural- 
ly and intuitively, and in a short time I was able to 
kee}) up with the fastest knife, liefore the cutting 
"was over, however, Judge Tanner transferred me from 
the field to the sugar house, to act there in the ca- 
pacity of driver. From the time of the commence- 
ment of sugar making to the close, the grinding and 
boiling does not cease day or night. Tlie whip was 
given me with directions to use it upon any one who 
Avas caught staTiding idle. If I failed to obey them 
•to the letter, there was another one for my own back. 
In addition to this my duty was to call on and off the 
diflerent gangs at the proper time. I had jio regular 
periods of rest, and could never snatch but a few mo- 
ments of sleep at a time. 

It is the custom in Louisiana, as I presume it is in 
other slave States, to allow the slave to retain what- 
ever compensation he may obtain for services per- 
formed on Sundays. In this way, only, are they able 
to provide themselves with any luxury or conveni- 
ence whatever. When a slave, purchased, or kidnap- 
ped in the Xorth, is transported to a cabin on Bayou 
13ceuf, he is furnished "svith neither knife, nor fork, 


nor dish, nor kettle, nor any other thing in the shape 
of crockery, or furniture of any nature or description. 
He is furnished with a bhinket before he reaches 
there, and wrapping that around him, he can either 
stand up, or lie down upon the ground, or on a board, 
if his master has no use for it. lie is at liberty to 
find a gourd in which to keep his meal, or he can eat 
his corn from the cob, just as he j)leases. To ask the 
master for a knife, or skillet, or any small convenience 
of the kind, would be answered with a kick, or laugh- 
ed at as a joke. Whatever necessary article of this 
nature is found in a cabin has been purchased with 
Sunday money. However injurious to the morals, 
it is certainly a blessing to the physical condition of 
the slave, to be permitted to break the Sabbath. 
Otherwise there would be no way to provide him- 
self with any utensils, which seem to be indispensa- 
ble to him who is compelled to be his own cook. 
On cane plantations in sugar time, there is no dis- 
tinction as to the days of the week. It is well un- 
derstood that all hands must labor on the Sabbath, 
and it is equally well understood that those especial- 
ly who are hired, as I was to Judge Turner, and oth- 
ers in succeeding years, shall receive remuneration 
for it. It is nsual, also, in the most hurrying time of 
cotton-picking, to require the same extra service. 
From this source, slaves generally are afforded an 
opportunity of earning sufticient to purchase a knife, 
a kettle, tobacco and so forth. The females, discard- 
ing the latter luxury, are apt to expend their little 


revenue in the purcluisc of gaudy ribbons, wherewithal 
to deck their hair in the merry season of the holidays. 

I remained in ISt. Mary's until tlie iirst of January, 
during which time my Sunday money amounted to 
ten doHai's. I met with other good fortune, for which 
I was indebted to my violin, my constant compani<;)n, 
the source of profit, and soother of my sorrows during 
years of servitude. There was a grand party of 
whites assembled at Mr. Yarney's, m Centreville, a 
liamlet in the vicinity of Turners plantation. 1 was 
emjjloyed to play for them, and so m'cU pleased were 
the merry-makers with my perlbrnumce, that a con- 
tribution was taken for my benefit, which amounted 
to seventeen dollars. 

"W^'ith this sum in possession, I was looked upon bj 
my fellows as a millionaire. It ailbrded me great 
pleasure to look at it — to count it over and over 
again, day after day. Visions of cabin furnitm-e, of 
■water pails, of pocket knives, new shoes and coats 
and hats, floated through my fiincy, and up through 
all rose the triumphant contemplation, that I was 
the wealthiest " nigger" on Bayou Boeuf. 

Vessels run up the Rio Teche to Centreville. 
AVhile there, I was bold enough one day to present 
myself before the captain of a steamer, and l)eg per- 
mission to hide myself among the freight. I was 
emboldened to risk the hazard of such a step, from 
overhearing a conversation, in the course of which I 
ascertained he was a native of the Xorth. I did not 
relate to him the particulars of my history, but only 


expressed an ardent desire to escape from slaverj to 
a free State. lie pitied me, but said it would be im- 
possible to avoid the vigilant custom bouse officers in 
iS^ew-Orleans, and tliat detection would subject liim 
to punisbment, and bis vessel to confiscation. ]Mj 
earnest entreaties evidentlv excited bis sympatbies, 
and doubtless be would bave yielded to tbem, could 
be bave done so Avitb any kind of safety, I was 
compelled to sraotber tbe sudden flame tbat ligbted 
up my bosom witb sweet bopes of liberation, and 
turn my steps once more towards tbe increasing 
darkness of despair. 

Immediately after tbis event tbe drove assembled 
at Centreville, and several of tbe owners baving ar- 
rived and collected tbe monies due for our services, 
we were driven back to Bayou Bo3uf. It was on our 
return, wbile passing tbrougb a small village, tbat I 
caugbt sigbt of Tibeats, seated in tb-e door of a dirty 
grocery, looking somewbat seedy and out of repair. 
Passion and poor wbisky, I doubt not, bave ere tbis 
laid bim on tbe sbelf. 

During our absence, I learned from Aunt Pbebe 
and Patsey, tbat tbe latter bad been getting deeper 
and deeper into trouble. Tbe poor girl was truly an 
object of pity. " Old Ilogjaw," tbe name by wbicb 
Epps was called, wben tbe slaves were by tbemselves, 
bad beaten ber more severely and frecpiently tban 
ever. As surely as be came from Ilolmesville, elated 
witb liquor — and it was often in tbose days — be 
would wbi]3 ber, merely to gratify tbe mistress ; would 

193 TWELVE 13!:.UtS A SLAVE. 

punish her to an extent almost beyond endurance, for 
an otlenee of wliicli lie hiutselt' was the sole and irre- 
sistible cause. In his sober moments he could not al- 
Mays be prevailed upon to indulge his wile's insatia- 
ble thirst tor vengeance. 

To Ir' rid of Patsey — to place her beyond sight or 
reach, by sale, or death, or in any other manner, of 
late years, seemed to be the ruling thought and pas- 
sion of my mistress. Patsey had been a favorite when 
a child, even in the great house. She had been pet- 
ted and admired for her uncommon sprightliness and 
pleasant disposition. She luid been fed many a time, 
so Uncle .Vbram said, even on biscuit and milk, when 
the madam, in her younger days, was wont to call 
lier to the piazza, and fondle her as she would ajjlay- 
ful kitten. But a sad change had come over the spirit 
of the woman. Now, only black and angry fiends 
ministered in the temple of her heart, until she could 
look on Patsey but with concentrated venom. 

Mistress Epps was not naturally such an evil wo- 
man, after all. She was possessed of the devil, jeal- 
ousy, it is true, but aside from that, there was much 
in her character to admire. Her father, Mr, Roberts, 
resided in Cheney ville, an influential and honorable 
man, and as much respected throughout the parish 
as any other citizen. She had been avoII educated at 
some institution this side the Mississippi ; was beauti- 
ful, accomplished, and usually good-humored. She 
was kind to all of us but Patsey — frequently, in the 
absence of her husbaud, sending out to us some little 

patsey's sorrows. 199 

daintj from lior own table. In other situations — in 
a ditrercut society" from that M'hich exists on the shores 
of Uayou Boeuf, she woukl have been pronounced an 
elegant and fascinatins: woman. An ill wind it was 
that blew her into the arms of Epps. 

He respected and loved his wife as mnch as a coarse 
nature like his is capable of loving, but supreme sel- 
fishness always overmastered conjngal affection. 

" He loved as -well as baser natures can, 

But a mean heart and soul were in that man." 

He was ready to gratify any whim — to grant any re- 
quest she made, provided it did not cost too mnch. 
Patsey was ecpial to any two of his slaves in the cot- 
ton field. He could not replace her with the same 
money she would bring. The idea of disposing of 
her, therefore, could not be entertained. The mistress 
did not regard her at all in that light. Tlie pride of 
the haughty Avoman was aroused; the blood of the 
fiery southern boiled at the sight of Patsey, and noth- 
ing less than trampling out the life of the helpless 
bondwoman would satisfy her. 

Sometimes the current of her wrath turned upon 
him whom she had jus.t cause to hate. But the storm 
of angry words would pass over at length, and there 
would be a season of calm again. At such times Pat- 
sey trembled with fear, and cried as if her heart would 
break, for she knew from painful experience, that if 
mistress should work herself to the red-hot pitch of 
rage, Epps would quiet her at last with a promise that 
Patsey should be flogged — a promise he was sure to 


keep. Tims did pride, and jealousy, aTid vengeanco 
war with avarice and brute-passi(in in the mansion of 
iTiy master, iilling it with daily tumult and conten- 
tion. Thus, upon the head of Patsey — the simple- 
minded slave, in whdse heart God had implanted the 
seeds of virtue — the force of all these domestic tem- 
pests spent itself at last. 

During the summer succeeding my return from St. 
Mary's ])arish, I conceived a plan of providing myself 
with i'ond, which, though simple, succeeded beyond 
expectation. It has been followed ])y many othei-s 
in my condition, nj) and down the bayou, and of such 
bcnelit has it become that I am almost persuaded to 
look upon myself as a benefactor. That summer the 
worms got into the bacon. Xotliing but ravenous 
hunger could induce us to swallow it. Tlie weekly 
allowance of meal scarcely sufficed to satisfy us. It 
was customary with us, as it is with all in that region, 
where the allowance is exhausted before Saturday 
nigrht, or is in such a state as to render it nauseous 
and disgusting, to hunt in the swamps for coon and 
opossum. This, however, must be done at night, af- 
ter the day's Avork is accomplished. Tliere are jdan- 
ters whose slaves, for months at a time, have no other 
meat than such as is obtained in this manner. Xo 
objections are made to hunting, inasmuch as it dis- 
penses with drafts upon the smoke-house, and because 
every marauding coon that is killed is so much saved 
from the standing corn. Tliey are hunted with dog-s 
and clubs, slaves not beino: allowed the use of fire-arms. 


Tlie flesli of tlie coon is palatable, but verily tlicre 
is nothing in all butcherdom so delicious as a roasted 
'possum. Tliey are a round, rather long-bodied, little 
animal, of a whitish color, with nose like a pig, and 
caudal extremity like a rat. They burrow among 
the roots and in the hollows of the gum tree, and are 
clumsy and slow of motion. They are deceitful and 
cunning creatures. On receiving the slightest tap of 
a stick, they will roll over on the ground and feign 
death. If the hunter leaves him, in pursuit of anoth- 
er, without first taking particular pains to break his 
neck, the chances are, on his return, he is not to be 
f(jund. The little aninuil has out witted the enemy 
• — has " played 'possum" — and is off. But after a 
long and hard day's W' ork, the weary slave feels little 
like going to the swamp for his sup})er, and half the 
time prefers throwing himself on the cabin floor with- 
out it. It is for the interest of the master that the ser- 
vant should not suffer in health from starvation, and 
it is also for his interest that he should not become gross 
from over-feeding. In the estimation of the owner, a 
slave is the most serviceable when in rather a lean 
and lank condition, such a condition as the race-horse 
is in, when fitted for the couree, and in that condition 
they are generally to be found on the sugar and cot- 
ton plantations along Red Kiver. 

My cabin was within a few rods of the bayou bank, 

and necessity being indeed the mother of invention, I 

resolved upon a mode of obtaining the requisite 

amount of food, without the ti'ouble of resorting night- 


\y to the woods. This M'as to construct a fish trap, 
llaviiif;-, ill my iniiicl, conceived the manner in which 
it coukl be done, tlie next Sunday I set about putting 
it intu i>ractieal execution. It nuiy be impossible for 
me to convey to the reader a lull and correct idea of 
its construction, but the following will serve as a gen- 
eral description : 

A frame between two and three feet square is made, 
and of a greater or less height, according to the 
depth of water. Boards or slats are nailed on three 
sides of tliis frame, not so closely, however, as to pre- 
vent the M^ater circulating freely through it. A door 
i.s fitted into the fourth side, in such manner that it 
will slide easily up and down in the grooves cut ia 
the two posts. A movable bottom is then so fitted 
that it can be raised to the top of the frame without 
dilficulty. In the centre of the movable bottom an. 
auger hole is bored, and into this one end of a handle 
or round stick is fastened on the under side so loosely 
that it will turn. The handle ascends from the centre 
of the movable bottom to the top of the frame, or as 
much higher as is desirable. Up and down this 
handle, in a great many places, are gimlet holes, 
through which small sticks are inserted, extending to 
opposite sides of the frame. So many of these small 
sticks are running out from the handle in all direc- 
tions, tliat a ii^li of any considerable dimensions can- 
not pass through without hitting one of them. The 
frame is then placed in the water and made sta- 


Tlie trap is " set" by sliding or drawing up the door, 
and kept in that position by another stick, one end 
of which rests in a notch on the inner side, the other 
end in a notch made in the handle, running up from 
the centre of the movable bottom. The trap is 
baited by rolling a handful of wet meal and cotton 
together until it becomes hard, and depositing it in 
the back part of the frame. A fish swimming through 
the npraised door towards the bait, necessarily strikes 
one of the small sticks turning the handle, which dis- 
placing the stick supporting the door, the latter falls, 
securing the fish within the frame. Taking hold of 
the top of the handle, the movable bottom is then 
drawn up to the surface of the water, and the fish 
taken out. Tliere may have been other such traps in 
use before mine was constructed, but if there were 
I had never happened to see one. Bayou Boeuf 
abounds in fish of large size and excellent quality, 
and after this time I was very rarely in want of one 
for myself, or for my comrades. Tlius a mine was 
opened — a new resource was developed, hitherto un- 
thought of by the enslaved children of Africa, who 
toil and hunger along the shores of that sluggish, but 
prolific stream. 

About the time of which I am now writing, an 
event occurred in our immediate neighborhood, which 
made a deep impression upon me, and which shows 
the state of society existing there, and the manner in 
which aflronts are oftentimes avenged. Directly op- 
posite our quarters, on the other side of the bayou, 


was sitiiati'd the plantation of Mv. Marshall. He 
belonged to a family among the most wealthy and 
aristocratic in the country. A gentleman from the 
vicinity of jS'atchez had been negotiating with him 
for tlie purchase of the estate. One day a messenger 
came in great haste to our plantation, saying that a 
bloody and fearful battle was going on at Mar- 
shall's — that blood had been si^illed — and unless 
the combatants were forthwith separated, the result 
would be disastrous. 

On repairing to Marshall's house, a scene presented 
itself that beggars description. On the floor of one 
of the rooms lay the ghastly corpse of the man from 
Natchez, while Marshall, enraged and covered with 
wounds and blood, was stalking back and forth, 
" breathing out threatenings and slaughter." A diffi- 
culty had arisen in the course of their negotiation, 
high words ensued, when drawing their weapons, the 
deadly strife began that ended so unfortunately. 
Marshall was never placed in confinement. A sort of 
trial or investigation was had at Marksville, when he 
was acfpiitted, and returned to his plantation, rather 
more respected, as I thought, than ever, from the fact 
that the blood of a fellow being w'as on his soul. 

Epps interested himself in his behalf, accompany- 
ing him to Marksville, and on all occasions loudly 
justifying him, but his services in this respect did not 
afterwards deter a kinsman of this same Marshall 
from seeking his life also. A brawl occurred between 
them over a gambling-table, which terminated in a 


deadly feud. Riding up on horseback in front of the 
house one day, armed with pistols and Lowie knife, 
Marshall challenged him to come forth and make a 
final settlement of the quarrel, or he would brand 
him as a coward, and shoot him like a dog the first 
opportunity. Xot through cowardice, nor from any 
conscientious scruples, in my opinion, but through the 
influence of his wife, he was restrained from accept- 
ing the challenge of his enemy. A reconciliation, 
however, was efl'ected afterward, since which time 
they have been on terms of the closest intimacy. 

Such occurrences, which would bring upon the 
parties concerned in them merited and condign pun- 
ishment in the Northern States, are frequent on the 
bayou, and pass without notice, and almost without 
comment. Every man carries his bowie knife, and 
when two fall out, they set to work hacking and 
thrusting at each other, more like savages than civ- 
ilized and enlightened beings. 

Tlie existence of Slavery in its most cruel form 
among them, has a tendency to brutalize the humane 
and finer feelings of their nature. Daily witnesses of 
human suflering — listening to the agonizing screeches 
of the slave — beholding him writhing beneath the 
merciless lash — bitten and torn by dogs — dying 
without attention, and buried without shroud or 
cofiin — it cannot otherwise be expected, than that 
they should become brutified and reckless of human 
life. It is true there are many kind-hearted and good 
men in the parish of Avoyelles — such men as "Wil- 


liaiii Ford — who can look Avitli pity upon the suflfer- 
ings of a shive, just as there are, over all the Avorkl, 
sensitive and 9yni])atlictic !*})irits, "svlio cannot look 
Avith indilt'erence upon the suti'erings of any creature 
■wliieh the .Vhuighty has endowed with life. It is 
not the fault of the slaveholder that he is cruel, so 
much as it is the fault of the system under which he 
lives, lie cannot withstand the influence of liabit 
and associations that surruuiul him. Taught from 
earliest childhood, by all that he sees and hears, that 
the rod is for the slave's hack, he will not be apt to 
change his opinions in maturer years. 

There may be humane masters, as there certainly 
are inhuman ones — there may be slaves well-clothed, 
well-fed, and happy, as there surely are those half- 
clad, half-starved and miserable ; nevertheless, the 
institution that tolerates such wrong and inhumanity 
as I have M'itnessed, is a cruel, unjust, and barbarous 
one. !Men may write fictions portraying lowly life as 
it is, or as it is not — may expatiate with oM'lish 
gravity upon the bliss of ignorance — discourse flip- 
pantly from arm chairs of the pleasures of slave life ; 
but let them toil with him in the field — sleep with 
him in the caljin — feed with him on husks; let them 
behold him scourged, hunted, trampled on, and they 
will come back witli another story in their mouths. 
Let them kimw the At-ar^ of the poor slave — learn, 
his secret thoughts — thoughts he dare not utter in 
the hearing of the white man ; let them sit by him 
in the silent watches of the night — converse with 


him in trustful confidence, of " life, liberty, and tlie 
pursuit of happiness," and they will find that ninety- 
nine out of every hundred^ are intelligent enough to 
understand . their situation, and to cherish in their 
bosoms the love of freedom, as passionately as them- 


1ab0e3 on sugar plantations — the mode of plantino cane of hoeinq 

cane cane ricks cutting cane description of the cane knife 

wineowing preparing for succeeding crops descrdtion of 

Hawkins' sugar mill on bayou bceuf — tue Christmas holidays — 

the carnival season of tue children of bondage tue chrlstmas 

supper red, tue favorite color tue violin, and tue consolation 

rr afforded tue curistmas dance lively, tue coqueite sam 

roberts, and uis rivals slave songs southern liee as it ls 



Is consequence of my inability in cotton-picking, 
Epps was in the liabit of hiring me out on sugar 
plantations during the season of cane-cutting and 
sugar-making. He received for my services a dollar 
a day, with the money supplying my place on his 
cotton plantation. Cutting cane was an employment 
that suited me, and for three successive years I held 
the lead row at Hawkins', leading a gang of from 
fifty to an hundi'ed hands. 

In a previous chapter the mode of cultivating cot- 
ton is described. This may bo the proper place to 
Bi^eak of the manner of cultivating cane. 

The ground is prepared in beds, the same as it is 
prepared for the reception of the cotton seed, except 


it is ploughed deeper. Drills are made in tlie same 
manner. Planting commences in January, and con- 
tinues until April. It is necessary to plant a sugar 
field only once in three years. Three crops are taken 
before the seed or plant is exhausted. 

Three gangs are employed in the operation. One 
draws the cane from the rick, or stack, cutting the 
top and flags from the stalk, leaving only that part 
which is sound and healthy. Each joint of the cane 
has an eye, like the eye of a potato, which sends forth 
a sprout when buried in the soil. Another gang lays 
the cane in the drill, placing two stalks side by side 
in such manner tliat joints will occur once in four or 
six inches. The third gang follows with hoes, drawing 
earth upon the stalks, and covering them to the depth 
of three inches. 

In four weeks, at the farthest, the sprouts appear 
above the ground, and from this time forward grow 
with great rapidity. A sugar field is hoed three 
times, the same as cotton, save that a greater quantity 
of earth is drawn to the roots. By the first of Au- 
gust hoeing is usually over. About the middle of 
September, whatever is recpiired for seed is cut and 
stacked in ricks, as they are termed. In October it 
is ready for the mill or sugar-house, and then the gen- 
eral cutting begins. The blade of a cane-knife is fif- 
teen inches long, three inches wide in the middle, and 
tapering towards the point and handle. The blade 
is thin, and in order to be at all serviceable must be 

kept very sharp. Every third hand takes the lead of 



two othei'S, one of Avliom is on cacli side of him. Tho 
lead hand, in the first place, with a blow of his knife 
shears the flags from the stalk. lie next cnts oif the 
top down as fur as it is green, lie must be careful 
to sever all the green from the ripe part, inasmuch 
as the juice of the former sours the molasses, and ren- 
ders it unsalal)le. Tlien he severs the stalk at the 
root, and lays it directly behind him. His right and 
left hand comjjanions lay their stalks, when cut in the 
same manner, upon his. To every three hands there 
is a cart, which follows, and the stalks are thrown into 
it by the younger slaves, when it is drawn to the su- 
gar-house and ground. 

If the planter apprehends a frost, the cane is win- 
rowed, "NVinrowing is the cutting the stalks at an 
early period and throwing them lengthwise in the wa- 
ter furrow in such a manner that the tops will cover 
the butts of the stalks. They will remain in this con- 
dition three weeks or a month without souring, and 
secure from frost. "When the proper time arrives, 
they are taken up, trimmed and carted to the sugar- 

In the month of January the slaves enter the field 
again to prepare for another crop. The ground is 
now strewn with the tops, and flags cut from the past 
year's cane. On a dry day fire is set to this combus- 
tible refuse, which sweeps over the field, leaving it 
bare and clean, and ready for the hoes. The earth is 
loosened about the roots of the old stubble, and in 
process of time another crop springs up from the last 


year's seed. It is the same the year following ; but 
the third year the seed has exliausted its strength, 
and the field must be ploughed and planted again. 
Tlie second year the cane is sweeter and yields more 
than the first, and the third year more than the second. 

During the three seasons I labored on Hawkins' 
plantation, I was employed a considerable portion of 
the time in the sugar-house. He is celeljrated as the 
producer of the finest variety of white sugar. The 
following is a general description of his sugar-house 
and the process of manufacture : 

The mill is an immense brick building, standing on 
the shore of the bayou. Ilunning out from the build- 
ing is an open shed, at least an hundred feet in length 
and forty or fifty feet in width. The boiler in which 
the steam is generated is situated outside the main 
building ; the machinery and engine rest on a brick 
pier, fifteen feet above the floor, wuthin the body of the 
building. The machinery turns two great iron rollers, 
between two and three feet in diameter and six or 
eight feet in length. Tliey are elevated above the 
brick pier, and roll in towards each other. An end- 
less carrier, made of chain and wood, like leathern 
belts used in small mills, extends from the iron rollers 
out of the main buildino; and throuo-h the entire 
length of the open shed. The carts in w^hich the cane 
is brought from the field as fast as it is cut, are un- 
loaded at the sides of the shed. All along the endless 
carrier are ranged slave children, whose business it is 
to place the cane upon it, when it is conveyed through 


the slied into the miiin building, Avliere it falls be- 
tM'een the rollers, is crushed, and drops upon anotlier 
can-iLT that convoys it out of the main building in an 
0])p'>site direction, depositing it in the top of a chim- 
ney ui)on a fire l»eneath, Avliich consumes it. It is ne- 
cessary to burn it in tliis manner, because otherwise 
it would soon lill the building, and more especially 
because it would soon sour and engender disease. 
The juice of the cane falls into a conductor underneath 
the iron rollers, and is carried into a reservoir. Pipes 
convey it from thence into five filterers, holding sev- 
eral hogsheads each. These filterers are filled with 
bone-black, a substance resembling pulverized char- 
coal. It is made of bones calcinated in close vessels, 
and is used for the purpose of decolorizing, by filtra- 
tion, the cane juice before boiling. Tlirough these 
five filterers it passes in succession, and then runs into 
a large reservoir underneath the ground floor, from 
whence it is carried up, by means of a steam pump, 
into a clarifier made of sheet iron, where it is heated 
by steam until it boils. From the first clarifier it is 
carried in pipes to a second and a third, and thence 
into close iron pans, through which tubes pass, filled 
with steam. While in a boiling state it flows through 
three pans in succession, and is then carried in other 
pipes down to the coolers on the ground floor. Cool- 
ers are wooden boxes Mith sieve bottoms made of the 
finest Avire. As soon as the syrup passes into the 
coolers, and is met by the air, it grains, and the mo- 
lasses at once escapes through the sieves into a cistern 


below. It is then white or louf sugar of the finest 
kind — clear, clean, and as wliitc as snow. "When 
cool, it is taken ont, ])acked in hogsheads, and is ready 
for market. The molasses is then carried from the 
cistern into the upper story again, and by another 
process converted into brown sugar. 

There are larger mills, and those constructed differ- 
ently from the one thus imperfectly described, but 
none, perhaps, more celebrated than this anywhere 
on Bayou B(jeuf. Lambert, of ]!^ew-Orleans, is a part- 
ner of Hawkins. Tie is a uian of vast wealth, hold- 
ing, as I have been told, an interest in over forty dif- 
ferent sugar plantations in Louisiana. 

Tlie only respite from constant labor the slave has 
through the whole year, is during the Christmas holi- 
days. Epps allowed us three — others allow four, 
five and six days, according to the measure of their 
generosity. It is the only time to wliich they look 
forward with any interest or pleasure. They are glad 
when night comes, not only because it brings them a 
few hours repose, but because it brings them one day 
nearer Christmas. It is hailed with equal delight by 
the old and the young ; even Uncle Abram ceases to 
glorify Andrew Jackson, and Patsey forgets her many 
sorrows, amid the general hilarity of the holidays. It 
is the time of feasting, and frolicking, and fiddling — ■ 
the carnival season with the children of bondage. 
They are the only days when they are allowed a little 
restricted liberty, and heartily indeed do they enjoy it. 


It is the custom for one planter to give a " Christ- 
mas su})per,'' inviting the shives from neighboring 
jjhmtiitions to ynn his own on the occasion; for in- 
stance, one year it is given Ijy Epps, the nextl)y Mar- 
shall, the next by Hawkins, and so on. Usually from 
three to five hundred are assembled, coming together 
on foot, in carts, on horseback, on mules, riding double 
and triple, sometimes a boy and girl, at others a girl 
and two boys, and at others again a l)oy, a girl and 
an I '1(1 woman. Uncle Al)i'aui astride a mule, with 
Aunt riiebe and Patsey behind him, trotting towards 
a Christmas supper, would be no uncommon sight on 
Bayou Bo^uf. 

Then, too, '' of all days i' the year," they array 
themselves in their best attire. The cotton coat has 
been washed clean, the stump of a tallow candle has 
been applied to the shoes, and if so f )rtunate as to pos- 
sess a rimless or a crownless hat, it is placed jauntily 
on the head. Tliey are welcomed with equal cordial- 
ity, however, if they come bare-headed and bare- 
footed to the feast. As a general thing, the women 
wear handkerchiefs tied about their heads, but if 
chance has thrown in their way a fiery red ribbon, 
or a cast-olf bonnet of their mistress' grandmother, it 
is sure to be worn on such occasions, lied — the deep 
blood red — is decidedly the favorite color among the 
enslaved damsels of my acquaintance. If a red rib- 
bon does not encircle the neck, you will be certain to 
find all the hair of their woolly heads tied up with red 
Btrinirs of one sort or another. 


Tlie table is spread in the open air, and loaded with, 
varieties of meat and piles of vegetables. Bacon and 
corn meal at such times are dispensed with. Some- 
times the cooking is performed in the kitchen on the 
plantation, at others in the shade of wide branching 
trees. In the latter case, a ditch is dug in the ground, 
and wood laid in and burned until it is tilled with 
glowing coals, over which chickens, ducks, turkeys, 
pigs, and not unfrequently the entire body of a wild 
ox, are roasted. They are furnished also M'itli flour, 
of which biscuits are made, and often with peach and 
other preserves, with tarts, and every mamier and de- 
scription of pies, except the mince, that being an ar- 
ticle of pastry as yet unknown among them. Only 
the slave who has lived all the years on his scanty al- 
lowance of meal and bacon, can appreciate such sup- 
pers. '\Vliite people in great numbers assemble to 
witness the gastronomical enjoyments. 

They seat themselves at the rustic table — the males 
on one side, the females on the other. The two be- 
tween whom there may have been an exchange of 
tenderness, invariably manage to sit opposite ; for the 
omnipresent Cupid disdains not to hurl his arrows into 
the simple hearts of slaves. Unalloyed and exulting 
liappiness lights up the dark faces of them all. The 
ivory teeth, contrasting with their black complexions, 
exhibit two long, white streaks the whole extent of 
the table. All round the bountiful board a multitude 
of eyes roll in ecstacy. Griggling and laughter and 
the clattering of cutlery and crockery succeed. Cuf- 


fee's oll)in\' Imnclies liis neighbor's side, impelled by 
an invnluutarv impulse of delight; Nelly shakes her 
finger at Sambo and laughs, she knows not why, and 
BO the fun and merriment flows on. 

"When the viands have disappeared, and the hungry 
maws of the children of toil are satislied, then, next 
in the order of amusement, is the Christmas dance. 
My business on these gala days always was to play on 
the violin. The African race is a music-loving one, 
proverbially ; and many there were among my fellow- 
bondsmen whose organs of tune were strikingly devel- 
oped, and who could thumb the banjo with dexterity ; 
but at the expense of appearing egotistical, I must, 
nevertheless, declare, that I was considered the Ole 
Bull of Bayou Bceuf My master often received let- 
ters, sometimes from a distance of ten miles, recpiest- 
ing him to send me to play at a ball or festival of the 
whites, lie received his compensation, and usually I 
also returned with many picayimes jingling in my 
j)0ckets — the extra contributions of those to whose 
delight I had administered. In this manner I became 
more acquainted than I otherwise would, np and down 
the bayou. The young men and maidens of Ilolmes- 
ville always knew tliei-e was to be a jollification some- 
wliere, whenever Blatt K|)ps was seen passing through 
the town Avith his fiddle in his hand. '* AVTiere are 
you going now, Blatt V and " What is coming off to- 
night, Blatt ?" Would be interrogatories issuing from 
every door and window, and many a time when there 
was no special hurry, yielding to pressing importuni- 


tics, Piatt -would draw liis Low, and sitting astride 
his mule, perhaps, discourse musically to a crowd 
of delighted children, gathered around him in the 

Alas ! had it not been for my beloved violin, I scarce- 
ly can conceive how I could have endured the long 
yeai-s of bondage. It introduced me to great houses 
— relieved me of many days' labor in the lield — sup- 
plied me with conveniences for my cabin — with 
pipes and tobacco, and extra pairs of shoes, and often- 
times led me away from the presence of a hard mas- 
ter, to witness scenes of jollity and mirth. It was 
my companion — the friend of my bosom — triumph- 
ing loudly when I was joyful, and uttering its soft, 
melodious consolations when I was sad. Often, at 
midnight, when sleep had fled affrighted from the 
cabin, and my soul was disturbed and troubled with 
the contemplation of my fate, it would sing me a song 
of peace. On holy Sabbath days, when an hour or 
two of leisure was allowed, it would accompany me 
to some quiet place on the bayou bank, and, lifting 
lip its voice, discourse kindly and pleasantly indeed. 
It heralded my name round the country — made me 
friends, who, otherwise would not have noticed me — • 
gave me an honored seat at the yearly feasts, and se- 
cured the loudest and heartiest welcome of them all 
at the Christmas dance. The Christmas dance ! Oh, 
ye pleasure-seeking sons and daughters of idleness, 
who move with measured step, listless and snail-like, 
through the slow-winding cotillon, if ye wisli to look 


upon the celerity, ii" not the " poetry of motion" — 
upon genuine liaj^piness, rmnpant and unrestrained — 
go down to Louisiana, and see the shives dancing in 
the starlight of a Christmas night. 

On that particular Christmas I have now in my 
mind, a description whereof 'will serve as a descrip- 
tion of the day generally, Miss Lively and Mr. Sam, 
the first belonging to Stewart, the latter to Eoherts, 
started the hail. It was well known that Sam cher- 
ished an ardent passion for Lively, as also did one of 
Marshall's and another of Carey's hoys ; for Li\'ely 
was lively indeed, and a heart-breaking coquette with- 
al. It was a victory for Sam Koberts, when, rising 
from the rejjast, she gave him her hand for the first 
" figure" in preference to either of his rivals. They 
were somewhat crest-fallen, and, shaking their heads 
angrily, rather intimated they would like to pitch into 
Mr. Sam and hurt him badly. But not an emotion 
of wrath ruffled the placid bosom of Samuel, as his 
legs flew like drum-sticks down the outside and up 
the middle, by the side of his bewitching partner. 
The whole company cheered them vociferously, and, 
excited with the applause, they continued " tearing 
down" after all the othei*s had become exhausted and 
halted a moment to recover breath. But Sam's su- 
perhuman exertions overcame him finally, leaving 
Lively alone, yet wjiirling like a top. Thereupon one 
of Sam's rivals, Pete Marshall, dashed in, and, witli 
might and main, leaped and shuffled and threw him- 
eell' into every conceivable shape, as if determined to 


sliow Miss Lively and all the world that Sam Roberts 
was of no account. 

Pete's aftection, however, was greater than his dis- 
cretion. Such violent exercise took the breath out of 
him directly, and he dropped like an empty bag. 
Then was the time for Harry Carey to try his hand ; 
but Lively also soon out-winded him, amidst hurrahs 
and shouts, fully sustaining her well-earned reputation 
of being the " fastest gal" on the bayou. 

One " set" off, another takes its place, he or she re- 
maining longest on the floor receiving the most up- 
roarious commendation, and so the dancing continues 
until broad daylight. It does not cease with the 
sound of the fiddle, but in that case they set up a mn- 
sic peculiar to themselves. This is called " patting," 
accompanied with one of those unmeaning songs, 
composed rather for its adaptation to a certain tune 
or measure, than for the pur^jose of expressing any 
distinct idea. Tlie patting is i^erformed by striking 
the hands on the knees, then striking the hands to- 
gether, then striking the right shoulder with one 
hand, the left with the other — all the while keeping 
time with the feet, and singing, perhaps, this song : 

" Harper's creek and roarin' riljber, 
Tliar, my dear, we'll live forebber ; 
Deu we'll go to de Ingin nation, 
All I want in dis creation, 
Is pretty little wife and big plantation. 

Chorus. Up dat oak and dowai dat ribber, 

Two overseers and one little nigger^' 


Or, if these words are not adapted to tlie tuiK} called 
for, it may be that " Old li-o^ Eye" is — a rather sol- 
emn and startling s])ecimen of versification, not, how- 
ever, to be a}){n'L'ciated unless heard at the South. It 

ruunL'th as follows : 

" Who's been he-re since I've been gone ] 
Pretty liltlfgal wid a josey on. 

Hog Eve ! 
Old li'og Eye, 
And llosey too ! 

Never see de like since I was bom, 
Here eonu; a little gal wid a josey on. 

Ilog Eve ! 
Old Hug Eye! 
And Ilusey too!" 

Or, Tnay be the following, perhaps, equally nonsen- 
sical, but full of melotly, nevertheless, ixs, it flows 
from the negro's mouth : 

" Ebo Dick and Jurdan's Jo, 
Them two niggers stole m}' yo'. 

Chorus. Ib)p ,lini along, 
Walk Jim along, 
Talk Jim along," &:c. 

Old black Dan, as bhu-k as tar, 
lie dam glad he was not dar. 

Hop Jim along," &:c. 

During the remaining lioli(bivs succeeding Christ- 
mas, they are provided with passes, and permitted to 
go where they please within a limited distance, or 
they may remain and labor on the plantation, in 


wliicli case they are paid for it. It is very rarely, 
however, that the hitter alternative is accepted. 
They may be seen at these times hurrying in all di- 
rections, as happy looking mortals as can bo found 
on the face of the earth. Thcv are different beings 
from what they are in the field ; the temporary re- 
laxation, the brief deliverance from fear, and from 
the lash, producing an entire metamorphosis in their 
aj^pearance and demeanor. In visiting, riding, renew- 
ing old friendships, or, perchance, reviving some old 
attachment, or pursuing whatever pleasure may sug- 
gest itself, the time is occupied. Such is " southern 
life as it is," three days in the year^ as I found it — • 
the other three hundred and sixty-two being days 
of weariness, and fear, and suffering, and unremit- 
ting labor. 

Marriage is frequently contracted during the holi- 
days, if such an institution may be said to exist 
among them. The only ceremony required before 
entering into that " holy estate," is to obtain the con- 
sent of the respective owners. It is usually encour- 
aged by the masters of female slaves. Either party 
can have as many husbands or wives as the owner 
will permit, and either is at liberty to discard the 
other at pleasure. The law in relation to divorce, or 
to bigamy, and so forth, is not applicable to property, 
of course. If the wife does not belong on the same 
plantation with the husband, the latter is permitted 
to visit her on Saturday nights, if the distance is not 
too far. Uncle Abram's wife lived seven miles from 


Epps', on Ba^'ou llulf Power, lie had permission to 
visit her once a fortnight, hnt lie was growing old, as 
has been said, and truth to say, had 'latterly well nigh 
forgotten her. Uncle Ahram had no time to spare 
from his meditations on GeneralJackson — connuliial 
dalliance being Avell enough for the young and 
thoughtless, Init unbecoming a grave and solemn phi- 
losopher like himself. 









With the exception of my trip to St. Mary's parish, 
and my absence during the cane-cutting seasons, I 
was constantly employed on the plantation of Master 
Epps. He was considered but a small planter, not 
having a sufficient number of hands to require the 
services of an overseer, acting in the latter capacity 
himself. ISTot able to increase his force, it was his 
custom to hire during the hurry of cotton-picking. 

On larger estates, employing fifty or a hundred, or 
perhaps two hundred hands, an overseer is deemed 
indispensable. These gentlemen ride into the field 
on horseback, without an exception, to my knowledge, 
armed with pistols, bowie knife, whip, and accompa- 
nied by several dogs. Tliey follow, ecj[uipj)ed in this 
fashion, in rear of the slaves, keeping a sharp lookout 


upon them all. llic requisite qnaliiications in an 
ovei'seer are utter lieartlessness, brutality and cruelty. 
It is his 1)usiness to produce large crops, and if that is 
accomplished, no matter whixi amount of suffering it 
nuiy have cost. The presence of the dogs are neces- 
sary to overhaul a fugitive avIio may take to his heels, 
as is sometimes the case, when faint or sick, he is un- 
able to maintin his row, and unalde, also, to en- 
dure the whip. The pistols are reserved for any dan- 
jrerous emertroncv, there havinf!: been instances when 
such weapons were necessary. Goaded into uncon- 
trollable madness, even the slave will sometimes turn 
uj^on his oppressor. The gallows were standing at 
]\rarksville last January, ujton which one was execu- 
ted a year ago for killing his overseer. It occurred 
not many miles from Epps' jilantation on Tied River. 
The slave was given his task at splitting rails. In 
the course of the day the overseer sent him on an 
errand, which occupied so much time that it was not 
possible for him to perform the task. The next day 
he was called to an account, but the loss of time oc- 
casioned by the errand was no excuse, and he was 
ordered to kneel and bare his back for the reception 
of the lash. Tliey were in the woods alone — beyond 
the reach of sight or hearing. The boy submitted 
until maddened at such injustice, and insane with 
pain, he sprang to his feet, and seizing an axe, liter- 
ally chopped the overseer in pieces. He made no at- 
tempt whatever at concealment, but hastening to his 
master, related the whole affair, and declared himself 


rciiily to expiate the wrong by the sacrifice of his life, 
lie was led to tlie scaffold, and while tlie roj^e was 
around his ncclc, maintained an undismayed and 
fearless bearing, and witli his last words justified the 

Besides tlie overseer, there are drivers under him, 
the number being in proportion to the number of 
liands in the field. The drivers are black, who, in 
addition to the performance of their equal share of 
work, are compelled to do the whipping of their 
several gangs. "NVliips hang around their necks, and 
if they fail to use them thoroughly, are whipped 
themselves. They have a few privileges, however ; 
for example, in cane-cutting the hands are not allow- 
ed to sit down long enough to eat their dinners. Carts 
filled with corn cake, cooked at the kitchen, are driv- 
en into the field at noon. The cake is distributed by 
the drivers, and must be eaten with the least possible 

When the slave ceases to perspire, as he often does 
when taxed beyond his strength, he falls to the ground 
and becomes entirely lielj^less. It is then the duty 
of the driver to drag him into the shade of the stand- 
ing cotton or cane, or of a neighboring tree, where 
he dashes buckets of M'ater upon him, and uses other 
means of bringing out perspiration again, when he is 
ordered to his jjlace, and compelled to continue his 

At Huff Power, when I first came to Epps', Tom, 
one of Eoberts' negroes, was driver. He was a burly 

J* 16 


fellow, ami severe in the extreme. After Epps' re- 
moval to liuyou 15(euf, that distiiii^uished hnnor was 
conferred upon myself. r[> to the time of my de- 
parture I liad to wear a whip about my neck in the 
iield. If Ep[>s was present, I dared not show any 
lenity, not having- the Christian t'ortilude of a certain 
■\vell-known Uncle Tom sufficiently to hravehis wrath, 
by refusing to perform the office. In that way, only, 
I escaped the innncdiate martyrdom he sulfered, and, 
withal, saveil my companions much suftering, as it 
proved in the end. Epps, I soon found, whether 
actually in the field or not, had liis eyes pretty gen- 
erally upon us. Frr)m the i)iaz/.a, from behind some 
adjacent tree, or other concealed point of observation, 
he was perpetually on the watch. If one of us had 
been l)ackward or idle through tlie day, we were apt 
to be told all about it on returning to the (juarters, 
and as it M'as a matter of principle Avith him to re- 
prove every offence of that kiiid that came within his 
knowledge, the offender not only was tjertain of re- 
ceiving a castigation for his tardiness, but I likewise 
was punished f )r j)ermitting it. 

If, on the other hand, he had seen me use the lash 
freely, the man was satisfied. " Practice makes })er- 
fect," truly ; and during my eight years' experience 
as a driver, I learned to handle the whip with mar- 
velous dexterity and precision, throwing the lash 
wirhiu a hair's bi'eadth of the back, the ear, the nose, 
without, however, touching either of them. If Epps 
was observed at a distance, or we had reason to ap- 


prehend he was sneaking somewliere in the vicinity, 
I would commence plying the lash vigorously, when, 
according to arrangement, they would squirm and 
screech as if in agony, although not one of them had 
in fact been even grazed. Patsey would take occa- 
sion, if he made his appearance presently, to mumble 
in his hearing some complaints that Piatt was lash- 
ing them the whole time, and Uncle Abram, with an 
appearance of honesty peculiar to himself, would de- 
clare roundly I had just whipped them worse than 
General Jackson whipped the enemy at jSTew-Orleans. 
If Epps was not drunk, and in one of his beastly hu- 
mors, this was, in general, satisfactory. If he was, 
some one or more of us must sutler, as a matter of 
course. Sometimes his violence assumed a dangerous 
form, placing the lives of his human stock in jeop- 
ardy. On one occasion the drunken madman thought 
to amuse himself by cutting my throat. 

He had been absent at Ilolmesville, in attendance at 
a shooting-match, and none of us were aware of his 
return. "While hoeing by the side of Patsey, she ex- 
claimed, in a low voice, suddenly, " Piatt, d'ye see 
old Hog-Jaw beckoning me to come to him ?" 

Glancing sideways, I discovered him in the edge 
of the field, motioning and grimacing, as was his habit 
when half-intoxicated. Aware of his lewd intentions, 
Patsey began to cry. I whispered her not to look up, 
and to continue at her work, as if she had not ob- 
served him. Suspecting the truth of the matter, 
however, he soon staggered up to me in a great rage. 


" Wluit <1I(1 you say to Pats?" lie deniaiuled, -with 
an oatli. 1 made him some evasive au'swcr, -wliicli 
only had tlio ett'ect of increasinu' his violence. 

" How long have you owned this plantation, say^ 

you d d nigger?" he inquire<l, with a malicious 

sneer, at the same time taking hold of my shirt col- 
lar with one hand, and thrusting the other into his 
pocket, " Xow I'll cut your black throat ; that's 
Avhat ril do," drawing his knife from his pocket as 
he said it. Ihit with one hand he was unable to 
open it, until finally seizing the blade in his teeth, I 
saw he was about to succeed, and felt the necessity 
of escaping from him, for in his ^^I'osent reckless state, 
it was evident he was not joking, by any means. !My 
shirt was open in front, and as I turned round quickly 
and sprang from him, Avhile he still retained his gripe, 
it was stripped entirely from my back. There Mas 
no difiiculty now in eluding him. lie would chase 
me nntil out of breath, then stop until it was recov- 
ered, swear, and renew the chase again. Xow he 
Avoidd command me to come to him, now endeavor 
to coax me, but I was careful to keep at a respectful 
distance. In this manner we made the circuit of the 
field several times, he making desperate plunges, and 
I always dodging them, moi'o amused than frightened, 
■well knowing that when his sober senses returned, 
he would laugh at his own drunken folly. At length 
I observed the mistress standing by the yard fence, 
■watching our half-serious, half-comical manoiuvres. 
Shooting past him, I ran directly to hor. Epps, on 


discovering her, did not follow. lie remained about 
the field an lioiir or more, dnring which time I stood 
by the mistress, liaving related the particulars of 
"what had taken place. Now, she was aroused again, 
denouncing her husband and Patsey about equally. 
Finally, Epps came towards the house, by this time 
nearly sober, walking demurely, with his liands be- 
hind his back, and attempting to look as innocent as 
a child. 

As he approached, nevertheless, Mistress Epps be- 
gan to berate him roundly, heaping upon him many 
rather disrespectful epithets, and demanding for what 
reason he had attempted to cut my throat. Epps 
made wondrous strange of it all, and to my surprise, 
swore by all the saints in the calendar he had not 
spoken to me that day. 

" Piatt, you lying nigger, have I ?" was his brazen 
aj^peal to me. 

It is not safe to contradict a master, even by the 
assertion of a truth. So I was silent, and when he en- 
tered the house I returned to the field, and the aflair 
was never after alluded to. 

Shortly after this time a circumstance occurred that 
came nigh divulging the secret of my real name and 
history, which I had so long and carefully concealed, 
and upon which I was convinced depended my final 
escape. Soon after he purchased me, Epps asked 
me if I could write and read, and on being informed 
that I had received some instruction in those branches 
of education, he assured me, with emphasis, if he ever 


cuny,'lit inc with a hook, or with pen and inlv, lie would 
o-lve me a hundred laslies. lie said lie wanted nie to 
understand that lie bought " niggers" to work and not 
to cdueate. Ho never inquired a word of my past 
life, or from whence I came. The mistress, however, 
cross-examined me frequently aLout Washington, 
which she supposed was my native city, and more 
than once remarked that I did not talk nor act like 
the other " niggers," and she was sui-e I had seen more 
of the world than I admitted. 

My great object always was to invent means of get- 
ting a letter secretly into the post-office, directed to 
some of my friends or family at the Xorth. The diffi- 
culty of such an achievement cannot be comprehend- 
ed by one unacquainted with the severe restrictions 
imposed upon me. In the first place, I was deprived 
of pen, ink, and paper. In the second place, a slave 
cannot leave his plantation without a pass, nor will a 
post-master mail a letter for one without written in- 
structions from his owner. I was in slavery nine 
years, and always watchful and on the alert, before I 
met with the good fortune of obtaining a sheet of pa- 
per. AVhile Epps was in Xew-Orleans, one winter, 
disposing of his cotton, the mistress sent me to Ilolmes- 
ville, with an order for several articles, and among 
the rest a quantity of foolscap. I appropriated a sheet, 
concealing it in the cabin, under the board on which 
I slept. 

After various experiments I succeeded in making 
ink, by boiling white maple bark, and with a feather 

THE LETTEK. " 231 

plucked from tlie wing of a duck, manufactured a 
pen. "When all were asleep in the cabin, l>y the light 
of the coals, lying npon my plank couch, I managed 
to complete a somewhat lengthy epistle. It was di- 
rected to an old acquaintance at Sandy Hill, stating 
my condition, and urging him to take measures to re- 
store me to liberty. This letter I kept a long time, 
contriving measures b}^ which it could be safely de- 
posited in the post-ofHce. At length, a low fellow, by 
the name of Armsby, hitherto a stranger, came into 
the neighborhood, seeking a situation as overseer. 
He applied to Epps, and was about the plantation for 
several days. lie next went over to Shaw's, near by, 
and remained Avith him several weeks. Shaw was 
generally surrounded by such worthless characters, 
being himself noted as a gambler and unprincipled 
man. He had made a wife of his slave Charlotte, and 
a brood of young mulattoes were growing up in his 
house. Armsby became so much reduced at last, 
that he was compelled to labor with the slaves. A 
white man working in the field is a rare and unusual 
spectacle on Bayou Boeuf. I improved every oppor- 
tunity of cultivating his acquaintance privately, de- 
siring to ol)tain his confidence so tar as to be willing 
to intrust the letter to his keeping. lie visited Marks- 
ville repeatedly, he informed me, a town some twenty 
miles distant, and there, I proposed to myself, the let- 
ter should be mailed. 

Carefully deliberating on the most proper manner 
of approaching him on the subject, I concluded final- 


\y to ask liim simply it' lie would deposit a letter for 
me in the Marksville post-otlice the next time he vis- 
ited that place, without disclosini^ to him that the let- 
ter was written, or any of the particulars it contained ; 
for I had fears that he mit;-ht betray me, and knew 
that some inducement must he held out to him of a 
l)ecuniary luiture, before it would be safe to conlide 
in him. As late as one o'clock one night I stole noise- 
lessly from my cabin, and, crossing the field to Shaw's, 
found him sleeping on the piazza. I had but a few 
])icayunes — the proceeds of my fiddling performan- 
ces, b\it all I had in the world I promised him if he 
■would do me the favor rec^uired. I begged him not 
to expose me if he could not grant the request. He 
assured me, upon his honor, he would deposit it in the 
Marksville post-ofiice, and that he would keep it an 
inviolable secret forever. Thcnigh the letter was in 
my pocket at the time, I dared not then deliver it to 
him, l)ut stating I would have it written in a clay or 
two, bade him good night, and returned to my cab- 
in. It was impossible for me to expel the suspicions 
I entertained, and all night I lay awake, revolving in 
my mind the safest coui-se to pursue. I was willing 
to risk a great deal to accomplish my purpose, but 
should the letter by any means fall into the hands of 
Epps, it would be a death-blow to my aspirations. I 
was " perplexed in the extreme." 

My suspicions M-ere well-founded, as the sequel de- 
monstrated. The next day but one, while scraping cot- 
ton in the tield, Kpps seated himself on the line fence 


between Slunv's plantation and his own, in sncli a po- 
sition as to ovL'i'look the scene of onr hibors. Pres- 
ently Armsby made his appearance, and, mounting 
the fence, took a seat beside him. They remained 
two or three hours, all of which time I was in an ag- 
ony of apprehension. 

That night, while broiling my bacon, Epps entered 
the cabin with his rawhide in his hand. 

"Well, boy," said he, "I understand I've got a 
larned nigger, that writes letters, and tries to get 
white felhnvs to mail 'em, "Wonder if you know who 
he is ?" 

My worst fears Avere realized, and although it may 
not be considered entirely creditable, even under the 
circumstances, yet a resort to duplicity and downright 
falsehood was the only refuge that presented itself. 

" Don't know nothing about it. Master Epps," I an- 
svrered him, assuming an air of ignorance and sur- 
prise ; " Don't know nothing at all about it, sir." 

" Wan't you over to Shaw's night before last ?" he 

" No, master," was the reply. 

" Hav'nt you asked that fellow, Armsby, to mail a 
letter fn- you at Marksville ?" 

" Why, Lord, master, I never spoke three words to 
him in all my life. I don't know what you mean." 

" Vrell," he continued, " Armsby told me to-day the 
devil was among nsy niggers ; that I had one that 
needed close watching or he would run away ; and 
when I axed him why, he said you come over to 


Sliinv's, aiul waked him \ij> in tlie nia-lit, and wanted 
liini ti) carry a letter to ^[arksville. What have you 
got to say to that, ha ?" 

"All I've fi^ot to say, master,'" J replied, "is, there 
is no truth in it. lluw could I \\'rite a letter without 
any ink or paper ? There is nobody I want to write 
to, 'cause I haint got no friends living as I know of. 
That Armsby is a lying, drunken fellow, they say, and 
iio])ody believes him anyway. You know I always 
tell the truth, and that I never go olf the i)lantation 
without a pass. Kow, master, I can see what that 
Armsby is after, plain enough. Did'nt he want you 
to hire him for an overseer?'' 

" Yes, he wanted me to hire him," answered Epps. 

" Tliat's it," said I, ''he wants to make you believe 
we're all going to run aM'ay, and then he thinks you'll 
hire an overseer to watch us. He just made that sto- 
ry out of whole cloth, 'cause he wants to get a situa- 
tion. It's all a lie, master, you may depend on't." 

Epps mused awhile, evidently impressed with the 
plausibility of my theory, and exclaimed, 

'• I'm d — d, Piatt, if I don't believe you tell the 
truth, lie must take me for a soft, to think he can 
come it over nie with them kind of yai'ns, musn't he? 
IMaybe he thinks ho can fool me ; maybe he thinks 
I don't know nothing — can't take care of my own 
niggers, eh ! Soft soap old Epps, eh I Ha, ha, ha! 
1) — n Armsby! Set the dogs on him, Piatt," and 
with many other comments descriptive of Armsby's 
general character, and his capability of taking care of 


his own business, and attending to his own " niggers," 
Master Epj)s left the cabin. As soon as he was gone 
I tlirew the letter in the lire, and, with a desponding 
and despairing heart, beheld the epistle which had 
cost me so ninch anxiety and thought, and which I 
fondly hoped would have been my forerunner to the 
land of freedom, writhe and shrivel on its bed of coals, 
and dissolve into smoke and ashes. Armsby, the 
treacherous wretch, was driven from Shaw's planta- 
tion not long subsequently, much to my relief, for I 
feared he might renew his conversation, and perhaps 
induce Epps to credit him. 

I knew not now whither to look for deliverance. 
Hopes sprang up in my heart only to be crushed and 
blighted. The summer of my life was passing away ; 
I felt I was growing prematurely old ; that a few 
years more, and toil, and grief, and the poisonous mi- 
asmas of the swamps would accomplish their work 
upon me — would consign me to the grave's embrace, 
to moulder and be forgotten. Repelled, betrayed, cut 
off from the hojje of succor, I could only prostrate 
myself upon the earth and groan in unutterable an- 
guish. The hope of rescue was the only light that 
cast a ray of comfort on my heart. That was now 
flickering, faint and low ; another breath of disap- 
pointment would extinguish it altogether, leaving me 
to grope in midnight darkness to the end of life. 











The year 1850, down to which time I have now ar- 
rived, omitting many occurrences uninteresting to the 
reader, was an unhicky year for my companion Wiley, 
the husband of Phebe, whose taciturn and retiring 
nature has tlius far kept him in the background. Not- 
withstanding AViley sehlom opened his mouth, and 
revolved in his obscure and unpretending orbit with- 
out a grumble, nevertlieless the warm elements of so- 
ciality were strong in the bosom of that silent " nig- 
ger," In the exuberance of his self-reliance, disre- 
garding the philosophy of Uncle Abram, and setting 
the counsels of Aunt Phebe utterly at naught, he had 
the fool-hardiness to essay a nocturnal visit to a neigh- 
boring cabin M'ithout a pass. 

Wiley's indiscketion. 237 

So attractive was the society in wliicli lie found 
himself, that "Wiley took little note of the passing 
hours, and the light hegan to break in the east before 
he was aware. Speeding homeward as fast as he 
could run, he hoped to reach the quarters before the 
horn would sound ; but, unhappily, he was spied on 
the way by a company of patrollers. 

How it is in other dark places of slavery, I do not 
know, but on Bayou Bceuf tliere is an organization of 
patrollers, as they are styled, whose business it is to 
seize and whip any slave they may fiad wandering 
from the plantation. They ride on horseback, headed 
by a captain, armed, and accompanied by d( igs. Tliey 
have the right, either by law, or by general consent, 
to inflict discretionary chastisement upon a black man 
caught beyond the boundaries of his master's estate 
without a pass, and even to shoot him, if he attempts 
to escape. Each company has a certain distance to 
ride up and down the bayou. They are compensated 
by the planters, who contril)ute in proportion to the 
number of slaves they own. The clatter of their lior- 
ses' hoofs dashing by can be heard at all hours of the 
night, and frerpiently they may be seen driving a 
slave before them, or leading him by a rope fastened 
around his neck, to his owner's plantation. 

Wiley fled before one of these companies, thinking 
he could reach his cabin before they could overtake 
him ; but one of their dogs, a great ravenous hound, 
griped him by the leg, and held him fast. The pa- 
trollers whipped him severely, and brought him, a 


prisoner, to Epps. I''n>iii liim lie received anotlier 
flai^ellatiou still more severe, so that the cuts of the 
lash and the bites of the dog rendered him sore, stiff 
and miserable, insomuch he was scarcely able to move. 
It was impossible in such a state to keep up his roNv, 
and consequently there was not an hour in the day 
but AVilev felt the sting of his master's rawhide on 
his raw and bleeding back, llis sufferings became 
intolerable, and finally he resolved to run away. 
"Without disclosing his intentions to run away even 
to his Avife Phebe, he i)roceeded to make arrange- 
ments for carrying his plan into execution. Having 
cooked his whole week's allowance, he cautiously left 
the cabin on a Sunday night, after the inmates of the 
quarters M-ere asleep. AVlien the horn sounded in the 
morning, "Wiley did not make his ai^pearance. Search 
was made f )r him in the cabins, in the corn-crib, in 
the cotton-house, and in every nook and corner of the 
premises. Each of us was examined, touching any 
knowledge we might have that could throw light upon 
llis sudden disa})pearancc or present whereabouts. 
Epps raved and stormed, and mounting his horse, gal- 
loped to neighboring plantations, making imjuiries 
in all directions. The search was fruitless. Nothing 
whatever was elicited, going to show what had be- 
come of the missinf; man. Tlie do^s were led to the 
swamp, but were unable to strike his ti-ail. They 
would circle away through the forest, their noses to 
the ground, but invariably returned in a short time 
to the spot from whence they started. 

"wilf.y's cAPrrKic on red rivek. 239 

"Wiley liad c>c;ipe(l, and so secretly and caiitiouslj 
as to elude and haffle all pursuit. Days and even 
weeks passed away, and nothing could be lieard of 
liim. Epps did nothing but curse and s\vear. It was 
the only topic of conyersation among us when alone. 
"We indulged in a great deal of speculation in regard 
to him, one suggesting he might have been drowned 
in some bayou, inasmuch as he was a poor swimmer ; 
another, that perhaps he might have been devoured 
by alligators, or stung by the venomous moccasin, 
whose bite is certain and sudden death. The warm 
and hearty symiiathies of ns all, however, were 
with poor Wiley, wherever he might be. Many an 
earnest prayer ascended from the lips of Uncle Abram, 
beseeching safety for the wanderer. 

In about three weeks, when all hope of ever seeing 
him again was dismissed, to our surprise, he one day 
appeared among us. On leaving the plantation, he 
informed us, it was his intention to make his way 
back to South Carolina — to the old cpiarters of Mas- 
ter Buford. During the dav he remained secreted, 
sometimes in the branches of a tree, and at night 
pressed forward tln-ough the swamps. Finally, one 
morning, just at dawn, he reached the shore of Red 
Kiver. "While standing on the bank, considering how 
he could cross it, a white man accosted him, and de- 
manded a pass. Without one, and evidently a runa- 
way, he was taken to Alexandria, the shire town of 
the parish of Rapides, and confined in prison. It 
hapj)ened several days after that Joseph B. Roberts, 


uncle of Mistress Epps, was in Alexandria, and going 
into the jail, recognized liini. AViley Lad worked on 
Lis plantation, wLen Ei)ps resided at Ilutt" Power. 
Paying tlie jail tec, and writing Lini a pass, nnder- 
neatli wlTu-li was a note to Epps, requesting Lini not 
to wLip Lim on Lis return, Wiley Avas sent back to 
Bayou Banif. It Avas tlie Lope tliat Lung upon tLis 
request, and wLicli Roberts assured Lim would be re- 
spected by Lis master, tLat sustained Lim as Le ap- 
proacLed tLe Louse. Tlie request, liowever, as may 
be readily supposed, M'as entirely disregarded. Afrer 
being kept in suspense tliree days, "Wiley was strijiped, 
and compelled to endure one of tliose inLuman flog- 
gings to wLicL tlie poor slave is so often subjected. 
It was tlie first and last attempt of Wiley to run away. 
TLe long scars upon Lis back, wLicL Lc will carry 
witL Lim to tlie grave, perpetually remind Lim of tlie 
dangers of sucL a step. 

TLere was not a day tlirougLout tlie ten years I be- 
longed to Epps tliat I did not consult witli myself upon 
tlie prospect of escape. I laid many plans, AvliicL at 
tlie time I considered excellent ones, but one after tLe 
otlier tliey were all abandoned. Xo man wLo Las 
never been placed in sucL a situation, can compreliend 
tlie tLousand obstacles tlirown in tlie way of tlie flying 
slave. Every wLite man's Land is raised against Lim 
— tlie patrollers are watcLing for Lim — tLe liounds 
arc ready to follow on Lis track, and tlie nature of 
tLe country is sucli as renders it impossible to pass 
tLrougL it witL any safety. I tLougLt, Lowever, tLat 


tlie time miglit come, perhaps, -svhen I should he run- 
ning through the swamps again. 1 C( tnchided, in that 
case, to be prepared for Epps' dogs, shouki they pur- 
sue nie. He possessed several, one of which was a 
notorious slave-hunter, and the most fierce and savage 
of his breed. While out hunting the coon or the 
opossum, I never allowed an opportunity to escape, 
when alone, of whipping them severely. In this man- 
ner I succeeded at length in subduing them com- 
pletely. They feared me, obeying my voice at once 
when others had no control over them whatever. 
Had they followed and overtaken me, I doubt not 
they would have shrank from attacking me. 

l^otwithst-anding the certainty of being captured, 
the woods and swamps are, nevertheless, continually 
filled with runaways. Many of them, when sick, or 
so worn out as to be unable to perform their tasks, 
escape into the swamps, willing to sufter the punish- 
ment inflicted for such ofil'ences, in order to obtain a 
day or two of rest. 

While I belonged to Ford, I was unwittingly the 

means of disclosing the hiding-place of six or eight, 

who had taken up their residence in the " Great Pine 

Woods." Adam Taydem frequently sent me from 

the mills over to the opening after provisions. The 

whole distance was then a thick pine forest. About 

ten o'clock of a beautiful moonlight night, while 

walking along the Texas road, returning to the mills, 

carrying a dressed pig in a bag swung over my 

shoulder, I heard footsteps behind me, and turning 
K 16 


round, beheld two Llack men in the dress of shaves 
approaching at a rapid pace. When within a short 
distance, one of them raised a chib, as if intending to 
strike me ; the other snatched at the hag. I managed 
to dodge them hotli, and seizing a pine knot, hnrled 
it with such force against the head of one of them 
that he was prostrated apparently senseless to the 
ground. Just then two more made their appearance 
from one side of the road. Before they could grapple 
me, however, I succeeded in passing them, and taking 
to my heels, fled, much aflrighted, towards the mills. 
When Adam was informed of the adventure, he 
hastened straightway to the Indian village, and arous- 
ing Cascalla and several of his tribe, started in pm*- 
Buit of the highwaymen. I accompanied them to the 
scene of attack, -when we discovered a puddle of 
blood in the road, where the man whom I had smit- 
ten with the pine knot had fallen. After searching 
carefully through the woods a long time, one of Cas- 
calla's men discovered a smoke curling up through 
the branches of several prostrate pines, whose tops 
had fallen together. The rendezvous was cautiously 
surrounded, and all of them taken prisonei-s. They 
had escaped from a plantation in the vicinity of La- 
mourie, and had been secreted there three weeks. 
They had no evil design upon me, except to frighten 
me out of my pig. Having observed mc passing 
towards Ford's just at night-fall, and suspecting the 
nature of my errand, they had followed me, seen me 
butcher and di-ess the porker, and start on my return. 


Tlicv liad been pinclied for food, and were driven 
to this extremity by necessity. Adam conveyed 
tlieni to the parish jail, and was liberally rewarded. 

Xot nnfrequently the runaway loses his life in the 
attempt to escape. Ej^ps' i)remises were bounded on 
one side by Carey's, a very extensive sugar planta- 
tion, lie cultivates annually at least fifteen himdred 
acres of cane, manufacturing twenty-two or twenty- 
three hundred hogsheads of sugar ; an hogshead and 
a half being the usual yield of an acre. Besides this 
he also cultivates five or six hundred acres of corn and 
cotton. He owned last year one hundred and fifty- 
three field hands, besides nearly as many children, and 
yearly hires a drove during the busy season from this 
side the Mississippi. 

One of his negro drivers, a pleasant, intelligent 
boy, was named Augustus. Daring the holidays, and 
occasionally while at work in adjoining fields, I had 
an opportunity of making his acquaintance, which 
eventually ripened into a warm and mutual attach- 
ment. Summer before last he was so unfortunate as 
to incur the displeasure of the overseer, a coarse, 
heartless brute, who whipped him most cruelly. Au- 
gustus ran away. Reaching a cane rick on Hawkins' 
plantation, he secreted himself in the top of it. All 
Carey's dogs were put upon his track — some fifteen 
of them — and soon scented his footsteps to the hiding- 
place. They, surrounded the rick, baying and scratch- 
ing, l)ut could not reach him. Presently, guided by 
the clamor of the hounds, the pursuers rode up, when 


tlie overseer, mounting on to the rick, drew liiin forth. 
As he rolled down to the ground the whole ])ack 
plunged uj)on him, and before tliey could he beaten 
oil', had gnawed and mutilated his body in the most 
shocking manner, their teeth having penetrated to 
tlie bone in an hundred places. lie was taken up, 
tied upon a mide, and carried home. But this was 
Auy-ustus' last trouble. He lin£>;ered until the next 
day, when death sought the unhappy boy, and kindly 
relieved him from his agony. 

It was not unusual for slave women as well as slave 
men to endeavor to escape. Is^elly, Eldret's girl, with 
whom I lumbered for a time in the "Big Cane 
Brake," lay concealed in Epps' corn crib three days. 
At night, when his family were asleep, she would 
steal into the quarters for food, and return to the crib 
again. We concluded it would no longer be safe for 
us to allow her to remain, and accordingly she re- 
traced her steps to her own cabin. 

But the most remarkable instance of a successful 
evasion of dogs and hunters was the following : 
Among Carey's girls was one by the name of Celeste. 
She was nineteen or twenty, and far whiter than her 
owner, or any of his offspring. It required a close 
inspection to distinguish in her features the slightest 
trace of African blood. A stranger would never 
have dreamed that she was the descendant of slaves. 
I was sitting in my cabin late at night, playing a low 
air on my violin, when the door oj^ened carefully, and 
Celeste stood before me. She was pale and haggard. 


Had an apparition arisen from tlie earth, I could, not 
have been more startled. 

" "Who are yon ?" I demanded, after gazing at her 
a moment. 

" I'm hungry ; give me some bacon," was her reply. 

My first impression was that she was some de- 
ranged young mistress, who, escaping from home, was 
wandering, she knew not whither, and had been 
attracted to my cabin by the sound of the violin. 
Tlie coarse cotton slave dress she wore, however, soon 
dispelled such a supposition. 

" AVhat is your name V I again interrogated. 

" My name is Celeste," she answered. " I belong 
to Carey, and have been two days among the pal- 
mettoes. I am sick and can't work, and would rather 
die in the swamj) than be whipped to death by the 
overseer. Carey's dogs won't follow me. They have 
tried to set them on. There's a secret between them 
and Celeste, and they wont mind the devilish orders 
of the overseer. Give me some meat — I'm starving." 

I divided my scanty allowance with her, and while 
partaking of it, she related how she had managed to 
escape, and described the place of her concealment. 
In the edge of the swamp, not half a mile from Epps' 
house, was a large space, thousands of acres iu 
extent, thickly covered with palmetto. Tall trees, 
whose long arms interlocked each other, formed a 
canopy above them, so dense as to exclude the beams 
of the sun. It was like twilight always, even in the 
middle of the brightest day. In the centre of this 


great space, wliich iiotliiii^- Ijut scqjents very often 
explore — a sombre and solitary spot — Celeste had 
erected a rude Imt of dead branches that had fallen 
to the ground, and covered it with the leaves of the 
palmetto. This was tlie abode she had selected. 
She had no fear of Carey's do<i:s, any more than I liad 
of Ep])s'. It is a fact, wliich I have never been able 
to exjdain, that there are those whose tracks the 
hounds will absolutely refuse to follow. Celeste was 
one of them. 

For several nights she came to my cabin for food. 
On one occasion our dogs barked as she approached, 
which aroused Ep})s, and induce*! him to reconnoitre 
the premises. lie did not discover her, but after that 
it was not deemed prudent for her to come to the 
yard. When all was silent I carried j)rovisions to a 
certain spot agreed upon, where she would iind them. 

In this manner Celeste passed the greater part of 
the summer. She regained her health, and became 
strong and hearty. At all seasons of the year the 
howlinii-s of wild animals can be heard at nio-ht alon": 
the borders of the swamps. Several times they had 
made her a midnight call, awakening her from slum- 
ber with a growl. Terrified by sucli unpleasant salu- 
tations, she finally concluded to abandon her lonely 
dwelling; and, accordingly, returning to her master, 
was scourged, her neck meanwhile being fiistened in 
the stocks, and sent into the field again. 

Tlie year before my arrival in the country there 
was a concerted movement amonsc anumberof slave3 


On Bayou Bojiif, tluit terminated tragically indeed. 
It was, I presume, a matter of newspaper notoriety at 
the time, but all tlie knowledge I have of it, has been 
derived from the relation of those living at that period 
in the immediate vicinity of the excitement. It has 
become a subject of general and unfailing interest in 
every slave-hut on the bayou, and will doubtless go 
down to succeeding generations as their chief tradi- 
tion. Lew Cheney, with whom I became acquainted 
— a shrewd, cunning negro, more intelligent than the 
generality of his race, but unscrupulous and full of 
treachery — conceived the project of organizing a com- 
pany sufficiently strong to fight their way against all 
opposition, to the neighboring territory of Mexico. 

A remote spot, far within the depths of the swamp, 
back of Hawkins' plantation, was selected as the ral- 
lying point. Lew flitted from one plantation to an- 
other, in the dead of night, preaching a crusade to 
Mexico, and, like Peter the Hermit, creating a furor 
of excitement wherever he appeared. At length a 
large number of runaways were assembled ; stolen 
mules, and corn gathered from the fields, and bacon 
filched from smoke-houses, had been conveyed into 
the woods. The expedition was about ready to pro- 
ceed, when their hiding place was discovered. Lew 
Cheney, becoming convinced of the ultimate failure 
of his project, in order to curry favor with his master, 
and avoid the consequences which he foresaw would 
follow, deliberately determined to sacrifice all his 
companions. Dei)arting secretly from the encamp- 


ment, lie procl:iinied mnonjj^ the planters the number 
collected in the swamp, and, instead ofstatin<^ truly 
the object they had in ^•ie^\■, asserted their intentii»n 
was to emer<)^e from their seclusion the iirst f:ivora])le 
opportunity, and murder every white person along the 

Such an announcement, exaggerated as it passed 
from mouth to mouth, tilled the whole country Mith 
terror. The fugitives were surrounded and taken pris- 
oners, carried in chains to Alexandria, and hung by 
the popidace, Xot only those, but many who were 
suspected, though entirely innocent, wei'e taken from 
the field and from the cabin, and without the shadow 
of process or form of trial, hurried to the scaffold. 
The planters on Bayou Banif finally rebelled against 
such reckless destruction of property, but it Mas not 
imtil a regiment of soldiers had arrived from some 
fort on the Texan frontier, demolished the gallows, 
and opened the doors of the Alexandria prison, that 
the indiscriminate slaughter was stayed. Lew Che- 
ney escaped, and was even rewarded for his treachery, 
lie is still living, but his name is despised and exe- 
crated l)y all his race throughout the i)arishes of 
Kapides and Avoyelles. 

Such an idea as insurrection, however, is not new 
among the enslaved ])Oinilation of Bayou B(X>uf. More 
than oiice I have joined in serious consultation, A\heu 
the subject has been discussed, and there have been 
times when a word from me would have placed hun- 
di'cds of my fellow-bondsmen in an attitude of defi- 


ance. TTitlioiit arms or ammunition, or even with 
them, I saw such a step would result in certain defeat, 
disaster and death, and always raised my voice 
against it. 

During the jNIexican war I well remember the ex- 
travagant liopes that were excited. The news of vie 
torj filled the great house with rejoicing, but pro- 
duced only sorrow and disappointment in the cabin. 
In my opinion — and I have had opportunity to know 
something of the feeling of which I speak — there are 
not fifty slaves on the shores of Bayou Boeuf, but 
would hail with unmeasured delight the approach of 
an invading army. 

Tlie}^ are deceived who flatter themselves that the 
ignorant and debased slave has no conception of the 
magnitude of his wrongs. They are deceived who 
imagine that he arises from his knees, with back la- 
cerated and bleeding, cherisliing only a spirit of meek- 
ness and forgiveness. A day may come — it v:ill 
come, if his prayer is heard — a terrible day of ven- 
geance, M'hen the master in liis turn will cry in vain 
for mercy. 











Wiley suflered severely at the liands of Master 
Epps, as lias been related in tlie preceding chapter, 
but in this resj^ect he fared no worse than his unfor- 
tunate companions. " Spare the rod," was an idea 
scouted by our master. lie was constitutionally sul)- 
ject to periods of ill-humor, and at such times, how- 
ever little jJi'O'^'ocation there might be, a certain 
amount of punishment was inflicted. The circum- 
Btances attending the last floo-o'inic but one that I re- 
ceived, will show how trivial a cause was sutUcicnt 
with him for resorting to the whip. 

A Mr. O'Xiel, residing in the vicinity of the Big 
Pine Woods, called upon Epps for the purpose of pur- 

o'niel, the tanner. 251 

cliasing me. He was a tanner and currier by occu- 
pation, transacting an extensive business, and intend- 
ed to place me at service in some department of liis 
establishment, provided lie bought me. Aunt Phebe, 
while preparing the dinner-table in the great house, 
overheard their conversation. On returning to the 
yard at night, the old woman ran to meet me, design- 
ing, of course, to overwhelm me with the news. She 
entered into a minute repetition of all she had heard, 
and Aunt Phebe was one whose ears never failed to 
drink in every word of conversation uttered in her 
hearing. She enlarged upon the fact that " Massa 
Epps was g'wine to sell me to a tanner ober in de 
Pine Woods," so long and loudly as to attract the at- 
tention of tlie mistress, who, standing unobserved on 
the piazza at the time, was listening to our conver- 

" "Well, Aunt Phebe," said I, " Fm glad of it. Pm 
tired of scraping cotton, and would rather be a tanner. 
I hope he'll buy me." 

O'Niel did not effect a purchase, however, the par- 
ties differing as to price, and the morning following 
his arrival, dej^arted homewards. He had been gone 
but a short time, when Epps made his appearance in 
the field. ISTow nothing will more violently enrage a 
master, especially Epps, than the intimation of one of 
his servants that he would like to leave him. Mis- 
tress Epps had repeated to him my expressions to 
Aunt Phebe the evening previous, as I learned from 
the latter afterwards, the mistress having mentioned 


to lier tluit slie liad overlieard lis. On entering the 
Held, E2){)S walked directly to me. 

'' So, Phitt, you're tired of scraping cotton, are you? 
You would like to change your master, eh? You're 
fund ut" moving round — traveler — ain't ye? Ah, 
yes — like to travel for your health, may be? Feel 
above cotton-scraping, I 'spose. So you're going into 
the tanning Itusiness? Good business — devilish line 
business. Enterprising nigger! B'lieve I'll go into 
that business myself Down on your knees, and strip 
that rag olf your back ! I'll try my hand at tanning." 

I begged earnestly, and endeavored to soften him 
with excuses, but in vain. There was no other alter- 
native ; so kneeling down, I presented my bare back 
fur the application of the lash. 

" How do you like tanning?^'' he exclaimed, as the 
rawhide descended upon my flesh. '" How do- you 
Yikii ianjiing ? ''"' \xQ repeated at every blow. In this 
manner he gave me twenty or thirty lashes, inccs- 
santlv ^rivini): utterance to the word " tannine;," in one 
form of expression or another. When sufficiently 
" tanned," he allowed me to arise, and with a half- 
malicious laugh assured me, if I still fancied tlie busi- 
ness, he W(juld give me further instruction in it when- 
ever I desired. This time, he remarked, he had only 
given me a short lesson in " tayiniug " — the next time 
he would " curry me down." 

I'ncle Abrani, also, was frequently treated with 
great brutality, although he was one of the kindest 
and most faithful creatures in the world, lie was my 


cabin-niatc for years. Tlicre was a benevolent ex- 
pression in the old man's face, pleasant to behold. 
lie rei^arded us with a kind of parental feeling, always 
counseling us with remarkable gravity and delibe- 

Returning from Marshall's plantation one afternoon, 
whither I had been sent on some errand of the mis- 
tress, I found him lying on the cabin floor, his clothes 
saturated with blood. He informed me that he had 
been stabbed ! While spreading cotton on the scaf- 
fold, Epps came home intoxicated from Ilolmesville. 
He found fault with every thing, giving many orders 
so directly contrary that it was impossible to execute 
any of them. Uncle Abram, whose faculties were 
growing dull, became confused, and committed some 
blunder of no particular conserpience. Epps was so 
enraged thereat, that, with drunken recklessness, he 
flew upon the old man, and stabbed him in the back. 
It was a long, ugly wound, but did not happen to 
penetrate far enough to result fatally. It was sewed 
up by the mistress, who censured her husband with 
extreme severity, not only denouncing his inhumanity, 
but declaring that she expected nothing else than that 
he would bring the family to poverty — that he would 
kill all the slaves on the plantation in some of his 
drunken fits. 

It was no uncommon thing with him to prostrate 
Aunt Phebe with a chair or stick of wood ; but the 
most cruel whipping that ever I was doomed to wit- 
ness — one I can never recall with any other emotion 


tlian that of horror — was hiilictedon tlie unfortunate 

It has been seen that tlie jealousy and hatred of 
!R[istress Epps made tlie daily life of liur young and 
agile slave completely miserable. I am happy in the 
belief that on numerous occasions I was the means of 
averting punishment from the inoft'ensive girl. In 
Epps' absence the mistress often ordered me to whip 
her without the remotest provocat ion. I W( luld refuse, 
saying that I feared my master's displeasure, and sev- 
eral times ventured to remonstrate with her against 
the treatment Patsey received. I endeavored to im- 
press her Avith the truth that the latter was not re- 
sponsible for the acts of which she complained, but 
that she being a slave, and subject entirely to her 
master's will, he alone was answerable. 

At length " the green-eyed monster " crept into the 
soul of Epps also, and then it was that he joined with 
his wrathful wife in an infernal jubilee over the girl's 

On a Sabbath day in hoeing time, not long ago, we 
were on the bayou bank, washing our clothes, as was 
our usual custom. Presently Patsey was missing. 
Epps called aloud, but there was no answer. Ko one 
had observed her leaving the yard, and it was a won- 
der with us whither she had gone. In the course of 
a couple of hours she was seen approaching from the 
direction of Shaw's. This man, as has been intima- 
ted, was a notorious profligate, and withal not on the 
most friendly terms with Epps. Harriet, his black 

patsey's ketdrn fkom siiAw's. 255 

wife, knowing Patsey's troubles, was kind to her, in 
consequence of "wliicli the latter was in the habit of 
going over to see her every opportunity. Her visits 
were prompted by friendship merely, but the suspi- 
cion gradually entered the brain of Epps, that another 
and a baser passion led her thither — that it was not 
Harriet she desired to meet, but rather the unblush- 
ing libertine, his neighbor. Patsey found her master 
in a fearful rage on her return. His violence so 
alarmed her that at first she attempted to evade direct 
answers to his questions, which only served to increase 
his suspicions. She linally, however, drew herself up 
proudly, and in a spirit of indignation boldly denied 
his charges. 

" Missus don't give me soap to wash with, as she 
does the rest," said Patsey, " and you know wdiy. I 
went over to Harriet's to get a piece," and saying this, 
she drew it forth from a pocket in her dress and ex- 
hibited it to him. " That's what I went to Shaw's for, 
Massa Epps," continued she ; " the Lord knows that 
was all." 

" You lie, you black wench ! " shouted Epj)s. 

" Idoivt lie, massa. If you kill me, Pll stick to that." 

" Oh ! I'll fetch you down. I'll learn you to go to 
Shaw's. I'll take the starch out of ye," he muttered 
liercely through his shut teeth. 

Then turning to me, he ordered four stakes to be 
driven into the ground, pointing with the toe of his 
boot to the places where he wanted them. When the 
stakes were driven down, he ordered her to be strip- 


I)ed of every article of dress. Ropes Avere then 
broii<;lit, and the naked girl was laid upon lier face, 
lier wrists and feet each tied firmly to a stake. Step- 
ping to the piazza, he took down a heavy whip, and 
])lacing it in my hamls, coininandcd nie to lasli her. 
Uni)leasant as it was, 1 was compelled to obey him. 
Xowhere that day, on the face of the whole earth, I 
venture to say, was there such a demoniac exhibition 
witnessed as then ensueil. 

Mistress Epps stood on the piazza among her chil- 
dren, ijazino; on the scene with an air of heartless sat- 
isfaction. The slaves were huddled together at a lit- 
tle distance, their countenances indicating the sorrow 
of their hearts. Poor Patsey prayed piteously for 
mercy, but her prayers were vain. Epps ground his 
teeth, and stamped upon the ground, screaming at me, 
like a mad liend, to strike harder. 

" Strike harder, or your turn will come next, you 
scoundrel," he yelled. 

" Oh, mercy, massa ! — oh I have mercy, do. Oh, 
God ! pity me," Patsey exclaimed continually, strug- 
gling fruitlessly, and the llesh quivering at every 

AVhen I had struck lier as many as thirt}' times, I 
stoj)ped, and turned round toward Epps, hoping he 
was satisfied ; but with bitter oaths and threats, he 
ordered me to continue. I inflicted ten or fifteen 
blows more. J3y this time her back was covered with 
long welts, intersecting each other like net work. 
Epps was yet furious and savage as ever, demanding 


if slie Avould like to go to Sliaw's again, and swear- 
ing lie would tlog her nntil she wished she was in h — 1. 
Throwing down the whij), I declared I could punish 
her no more. lie ordered me to go on, threatening 
me with a severer flogging than she had received, in 
case of refusal. Mj heart revolted at the inhuman 
scene, and risking the consequences, I absolutely re- 
fused to raise the whip. Pie then seized it himself, 
and applied it with ten-fold greater force than Idiad. 
The painful cries and shrieks of the tortured Patsey, 
mingling with the loud and angry curses of Epps, 
loaded the air. She was terribly lacerated — I may 
say, without exaggeration, literally flayed. The 
lash was wet with blood, which flowed down her 
sides and dropped upon the ground. At length she 
ceased struggling. Her head sank listlessly on the 
ground. Her screams and supplications gradually 
decreased and died away into a low moan. She no 
longer writhed and shrank beneath the lash Avhen it bit 
out small pieces of her flesh. I thought that she was 

It was the Sabbath of the Lord. The fields smiled 
in the warm sunlight — the birds chirped merrily 
amidst the foliage of the trees — peace and happiness 
seemed to reign everywhere, save in the bosoms of 
Epps and his panting victim and the silent witnesses 
around him. The tempestuous emotions that were 
raging there were little in harmony with the calm 
and quiet beauty of the day. I could lo(^k on Epps 
only with unutterable loathing and abhorrence, and 


thought ■Nvitliin myself — "Tliou devil, sooner or later, 
somewhere in the course of eternal justice, thou slialt 
answer for this sin ! " 

Finally, he ceased whipping from mere exhaustion, 
and ordered Pliebe to bring a bucket of salt and wa- 
ter. After washing her thoroughly with this, I was 
told to take her to her cabin. Untying the ropes, I 
raised her in my arms. She was unable to stand, and 
as her head rested on my shoulder, she repeated ma- 
ny times, in a faint voice scarcely perceptible, " Oh, 
Piatt — oh, Piatt !" but nothing further. Her dress 
was replaced, but it clung to her back^ and was soon 
stiff with blood. AVe laid her on some boards in the 
hut, where she remained a long time, with eyes closed 
and groaning in agony. At night Phebc applied 
melted tallow to her wounds, and so far as we were 
able, all endeavored to assist and console her. Day 
after day she lay in her cabin upon her face, the sores 
preventing her resting in any other position. 

A blessed thing it would have been for her — days 
and weeks and months of misery it would have saved 
her — had she never lifted up her head in life again. 
Indeed, from that time forward she was not what she 
had been. Tlie burden of a deep melancholy weigh- 
ed heavily on her spirits. She no longer moved with 
that buoyant and elastic step — there was not that 
mirthful sparkle in her eyes that formerly distin- 
guished her. The bounding vigor — the sprightly, 
laughter-loving spirit of her youth, were gone. She 
fell into a mournful and desponding mood, and often- 

PATSEy's roEA OF GOD, &0. 259 

times would start up in her sleep, and with raised 
hands, plead for mercy. She became more silent 
than she was, toiling all day in our midst, not uttering 
a word. A care-worn, pitiful expression settled on 
her face, and it was her humor now to weep, rather 
than rejoice. If ever there was a broken heart — ■ 
one crushed and blighted by the rude grasp of suffer- 
ing and misfortune — it was Patsey's. 

She had been reared no better than her master's 
beast — looked uj^on merely as a valuable and hand- 
some animal — and conserpiently possessed but a lim- 
ited amount of knowledge. And yet a faint light 
cast its rays over her intellect, so that it was not 
wholly dark. She had a dim perception of God and 
of eternity, and a still more dim perception of a Sav- 
iour who had died even for such as her. She enter- 
tained but confused notions of a future life — not com- 
prehending the distinction between the corporeal and 
spiritual existence. Happiness, in her mind, was ex- 
emption from stripes — from labor — from the cruelty 
of masters and overseers. Her idea of the joy of 
heaven was simply rest, and is fully expressed in these 
lines of a melancholy bard : 

" I ask no paradise on high, 

With cares on earth oppressed, 

The only heaven for which I sigh, 
Is rest, eternal rest." 

It is a mistaken opinion that prevails in some quar- 
ters, that the slave does not understand the term — ■ 
does not comprehend the idea of freedom. Even on 


Bayou Eccuf, where I conceive slavery exists in its 
most al)ject and cruel form — where it exhihits fea- 
tures altogether unknown in more northern States — 
tlie most ignorant of them generally know full well 
its meaning. Tlicy understand the privileges and 
exemptions that belong to it — that it would bestow 
upon them the fruits of their own labors, and that it 
would secure to them the enjoyment of domestic liap- 
piness. They do not fail to observe the difference 
between their own condition and the meanest white 
man's, and to realize the injustice of the laws which 
place it in his power not only to appropriate the 
profits of their industry, but to subject them to un- 
merited and unprovoked punishment, without reme- 
dy, or the right to resist, or to remonstrate. 

Patsey's life, especially after her whipping, was one 
long dream of liberty. Far away, to her fancy an 
immeasurable distance, she knew there was a land of 
freedom. A thousand times she had heard that 
somewhere in the distant Xortli there were no 
slaves — no masters. In her imagination it was an 
enchanted region, the Paradise of the earth. To dwell 
•where the black man may work for himself — live in 
his own ca])in — till his own soil, was a blissful dream 
of Patsey's — a dream, alas ! the fulfillment of which 
she can never realize. 

The effect of these exhibitions of brutality on the 
household of the slave-holder, is ai)parent. Epps' 
oldest son is an intelligent lad of ten or twelve years 
of age. It is pitiable, sometimes, to see him clias- 

ErPs' OLDEST SON. 261 

tising, for instance, tlie venerable Uncle Abram. lie 
■will call the old man to account, and if in his child- 
ish judgment it is necessary, sentence him to a cer- 
tain number of lashes, which he proceeds to inflict 
with much gravity and deliberation. Mounted on his 
pony, he often rides into the field with his whip, play- 
ing the overseer, greatly to his father's delight. 
Without discrimination, i^t such times, he applies the 
rawhide, urging the slaves forward with shouts, and 
occasional expressions of profanity, while the old man 
laughs, and commends him as a thorough-going boy. 

" The child is father to the man," and with such 
training, whatever may be his natural disposition, it 
cannot well be otherwise than that, on a: riving at ma- 
turity, the suflerings and miseries of the slave wnll 
be looked upon with entire indifference. The influ- 
ence of the iniquitous system necessarily fosters an 
unfeeling and cruel spirit, even in the bosoms of those 
who, among their equals, are regarded as humane 
and generous. 

Young Master Epps possessed some noble qualities, 
yet no process of reasoning could lead him to com- 
prehend, that in the eye of the Almighty there is no 
distinction of color. He looked upon the black man 
Bimply as an animal, diflering in no respect from any 
other animal, save in the gift of speech and the pos- 
session of somewhat higher instincts, and, therefore, 
the more valuable. To work like his father's mules — 
to be whipped and kicked and scourged through life — ■ 
to address the white man with hat iu hand, and eyes 


bent servilely on the earth, in liis mind, was the natu- 
ral and proper destiny of the slave. Broiii>ht np "with 
6uch ideas — in the notion that we stand without the 
pale of humanity — no wonder the oppressors of my 
people are a pitiless and unrelenting race. 











Lsf tlie moiitli of June, 1852, in pursuance of aj^re- 
vious contract, Mr. Avery, a carpenter of Bayou 
Kouge, commenced the erection of a house for Mas- 
ter Epps. It has pi-eviously been stated that there 
are no cellars on Bayou Boeuf ; on the other hand, 
such is the low and swampy nature of the ground, 
the great houses are usually built upon spiles. An- 
other peculiarity is, the rooms are not plastered, but 
the ceiling and sides are covered with matched cy- 
press boards, painted such color as most pleases the 
owner's taste. Generally the plank and boards are 
sawed by slaves with whip-saws, there being no water- 
power upon which mills might be built within many 
miles. When the planter erects for himself a dwel- 
ling, therefore, there is plenty of extra work for hia 


Blaves. Ilaviuii; had 'some experience uiuler Tibeats 
as a car])eiiter, I was taken from the field altogether, 
on the arrival of Aveiy and his hands. 

Among them was one to whom I owe an immeas- 
urable debt of gratitude. Only for him, in all prob- 
ability, I should have ended my days in slavery. lie 
was my deliverer — a man whose true heart over- 
flowcMl with mible and generous emotions. To the 
last moment of my existence I shall remember him 
with feelings of thankfulness. Ilis name was Bass, 
and at that time he resided in Marksville. It will 
be ditRcult to convey a correct impression of his ap- 
pearance or character. He was a large man-, between 
forty and fifty years old, of light complexion and 
light hair. lie was very cool and self-possessed, fond 
of argument, but always speaking with extreme de- 
liberation. He was that kind of person whose pecu- 
liarity of manner was such that nothing he nttered 
ever gave olfence. AVliat would bo intolerable, com- 
ing from the lips of another, could be said by him 
with impunity. There was not a man on Red Tiiver, 
perhaps, tluit agreed with him on the subject of poli- 
tics or religion, and not a man, I venture to say, who 
discussed either of those subjects half as much. It 
seemed to be taken for granted that he would espouse 
the nnp()])ular side of every local question, and it al- 
ways created amusement rather than displeasure 
among his auditors, to listen to the ingenious and 
original manner in which he maintained the contro- 
versy. He was a bachelor — an " old bachelor," ac- 


cording to the true acceptation of the term — liavins: 
no kindred living, as he knew of, in the world. Nei- 
ther had he any permanent abiding place — wander- 
ing from one State to another, as his fancy dictated. 
He had lived in Marksville three or four years, and 
in the prosecution of his business as a carpenter ; and 
in consequence, likev»'ise, of his peculiarities, was 
quite extensively kn(,)wn tliroughout the parish of 
Avoyelles. He was liberal to a fault ; and his many 
acts of kindness and transparent goodness of heart 
rendered him popular in the community, the senti- 
ment of which ho iinccasingly combated. 

He was a native of Canada, from whence he had 
wandered in early life, and after visiting all the prin- 
cipal localities in the northern and western States, in 
the course of his peregrinations, arrived in the un- 
healthy region of the Ked River. His last removal 
was from Illinois. Whither he has now gone, I re- 
gret to be obliged to say, is unknown to me. He 
gathered up his effects and departed quietly from 
Marksville the day before I did, the suspicions of his 
instrumeiitality in procuring my liberation rendering 
such a stop n-ccessary. For tlie commission of a just 
and righteous act he would undoubtedly have sufler- 
ed death, had he remained within reach of the slave- 
whipping tribe on Ba^'ou B<x'uf. 

One day, while working on the new liouse, Bass 
and Epps became engaged in a controversy, to which, 
as will be readily supposed, I listenod v.dth absorbing 
interest. Tliey w(u-e discussing the subject of Slavery. 


''I tell you wliat it is Epps," said Bass, "it's all 
•wrong — 'all wrong, sir — there's no justice nor right- 
eousness in it, I wouldn't own a slave if I was rich 
as Crossus, which I am not, as is perfectly well under- 
stood, more particularly among my creditors. There's 
another humbug — the credit system — humbug, sir; 
no credit — no debt. Credit leads a man into tem])ta- 
tion. Cash down is the only thing that will deli\er 
him from evil. But this question of Slavery ^ what 
r'ujht have you to your niggers when you come down 
to the point ? " 

'• AVhat right I " said E2:)ps, laughing ; '' ^vhy, I 
bought 'em, and i)aid for 'em," 

Of course you did ; the law says you have the right 
to hold a nigger, but begging the law's pardon, it 
lies. Yes, Epps, when the law says that it's a liar^ 
and the truth is not in it. Is every thing right be- 
cause the law allows it ? Suppose they'd pass a law 
taking away your liberty and making you a slave?" 

" Oh, that ain't a supj^osable case," said Epps, still 
laughing ; " hope you dou't compare me to a nigger, 

" Well," Bass answered gravely, " no, not exactly. 
But I have seen niggei-s before now as a'ood as I am, 
and I have no acquaintance with any white man in 
these parts that I consider a whit better tlian myself. 
Now, in the sight of God, what is the diflerence, 
Epps, between a white man and a black one ?" 

" All the diiierence in the world," replied Epps. 
" You might as well ask what the dilferencc is be- 


tween a white man and a baboon. Kow, I've seen 
<f;ne of them critters in Orleans that knowed just as 
nuch as any nigger I've got. You'd call them feller 
citizens, I s'pose ? " — and Epps indulged in a loud 
laugh at his own wit. 

" Look here, Epps," continued his companion ; " you 
can't laugh me down in that way. Some men are 
•witty, and some ain't so witty as they think they are. 
Kow let me ask you a question. Are all men created 
free and equal as the Declaration of Independence 
holds they are ? " 

" Yes," responded Ejips, " but all men, niggers, and 
monkeys am^t;^^ and hereupon he broke forth into a 
more boisterous laugh than before. 

" There are monkeys among white people as well 
as black, when you come to that," coolly remarked 
Bass. " I know some white meii that use arguments 
no sensible monkey would. But let that pass. These 
niggers are human beings. If they don't know as 
much as their masters, w-hose fault is it ? They are 
not allowed to know anything. You have books and 
papers, and can go where you please, and gather 
intelligence in a thousand ways. But your slaves 
have no privileges. You'd whip one of them if 
caught reading a book. They are held in bondage, 
generation after generation, de:)rived of mental im- 
provement, and who can expect them to possess much 
knowledge ? If they are not brought down to a level 
with the brute creation, you slaveholdcrtf will never 
be blamed for it. If they are baboons, or stand no 


higher in the scale of intelligence than such animals, 
you and men like you will have to answer for it. 
There's a sin, a fearful sin, resting on this nation, that 
will not go unpunished forever. Tliere will be a 
reckoning yet — yes, Epps, there's a day coming that 
will burn as an oven. It may be sooner or it may be 
later, but it's a coming as sure as the Lord is just." 

" If you lived u}) among the Yankees in Xew- 
England," said Ej^ps, "I expect you'd be one of them 
cursed fanatics that know more than the constitution, 
and go about peddling clocks and coaxing uiggere 
to run away." 

"If I was in ISTew-England," returned Bass, "I 
would be just what I am here. I would say that 
Slavery was an iniquity, and ouglit to be abolished. 
I would say there was no reason nor justice in the 
law, or the constitution that allows one man to hold 
another man in bondage. It would be luird for you 
to lose your property, to be sure, but it wouldn't be 
half as hard as it would be to lose your liberty. You 
have no more right to your freedom, in exact justice, 
than Uncle Abram yonder. Talk about black skin, 
and black blood ; why, how many slaves are there on 
this bayou as white as either of us? And what dif- 
ference is there in the color of the soul ? Pshaw ! the 
whole system is as absurd as it is cruel. You may 
own ni^irers and behan<rcd, but I wouldn't own one 
for the best plantation in Louisiana." 

" You like to hear yourself talk, Bass, better than 
any man I know ot'. You would argue that black was 


wliite, or "white black, if any l)ocly would contradict 
Ton. Nothing suits you in this world, and I don'1 
believe von will be satisfied with the next, if you 
should have your choice in them." 

Conversations snbstantially like the foregoing were 
not unnsnal between the two after this ; Epps drawing 
him out more for the purpose of creating a laugh at 
his expense, than with a view of fairly discussing the 
merits of the question. lie looked npon Bass, as a 
man ready to say anything merely for the pleasure of 
hearing his own voice ; as somewhat self-conceited, 
perhaps, contending against liis faith and judgment, 
in order, simply, to exhibit his dexterity in argumen- 

Tie remained at Epps' through the siimmer, visiting 
Marksville generally once a fortnight. Tlie more I 
saw of him, the more I became convinced he was a 
man in whom I could confide. J^^evertheless, my 
j^revious ill-fortune had taught me to be extremely 
cautious. It was not my place to speak to a white 
man except when spoken to, but I omitted no oppor- 
tunity of throwing myself in his way, and endeavored 
constantly in every possible manner to attract his 
attention. In the early part of August he and my- 
self were at work alone in the house, the other car- 
penters having left, and Epps being absent in the 
field. [N^ow was the time, if ever, to broach the sub- 
ject, and I resolved to do it, and submit to whatever 
consequences might ensue. We were busily at work 
in the afternoon, when I stopped suddenly and said — 


'• Master Bass, I want to ask you what part of the 
country you came from ?" 

" Why, rhitt, what ].ut tliat into your liead ? " lie 
answereil. '' You Wduhhi't know if 1 slniuld tell you." 
After a moment or two he added — " I was born in 
Canada ; now o'uess where that is." 

" Oh, I know where Canada is," said I, " I have 
Leen there myself." 

" Yes, I expect you are well acquainted all through 
that country," he remarked, laughing incredulously. 

" As sure as I live, Master Bass," I replied, " I have 
been there. I have been in Montreal and Kingston, 
and Queenston, and a great many places in Canada, 
and I have been in York State, too — in Buffalo, and 
Ilochester, and Albany, and can tell you the names 
of the villages on the Erie canal and the Champlain 

Bass turned round and gazed at me a long time 
without uttering a syllable, 

" IIow came you here ? " he inquired, at length, 
"Master Bass," I answered, "if justice had been 
done, I never would have been here." 

" Well, how's this ? " said he. "AYhoareyou? You 
have been in Canada sure enough ; I know all the 
places you mention. How did you happen to get 
here ? Come, tell me all about it." 

" I have no friends here," was my reply, " that I 
can put confidence in. I am afraid to tell you, 
though I don't believe you would tell Master Epps if 
I should." 

,- bass' assurances, 271 

He assured me earnestly he would keep every word 
I might speak to him a profound secret, and his curi- 
osity was evidently strongly excited. It was a long 
story, I informed him, and would take some time to 
relate it. Master Epps would be back soon, but if he 
M'ould see me that night after all were asleej), I would 
repeat it to him. He consented readily to the ar- 
rangement, and directed me to come into the building 
where we were then at work, and I would find him 
there. About midnight, when all was still and cpiiet, 
I crept cautiously from my cabin, and silently enter- 
ing the unfinished building, found him awaiting me. 

After further assurances on his part that I should 
not be betrayed, I began a relation of the history of 
my life and misfortunes. He was deeply interested, 
asking numerous rpiestions in reference to localities 
and events. Having ended my stoiy I besought him 
to write to some of my friends at the IS^orth, accpiaint- 
ing them with my situation, and begging them to for- 
ward free papers, or take such steps as they might 
consider proper to secure my i-elease. He promised 
to do so, l)ut dwelt upon the danger of such an act in 
case of detection, and now impressed upon me the 
great necessity of strict silence and secresy. Before 
we parted our plan of operation was arranged. 

We agreed to meet the next night at a specified 
place among the high Aveeds on the bank of the bayou, 
some distance from master's dwelling. There he was 
to write down on paper the names and address of sev- 
eral persons, old friends in the North, to whom he 


■\voukl direct letters during his next visit to Marks- 
ville. It was not deemed prudent to meet in the new 
liouse, inasmuch as tlie light it wouhl be necessary to 
nse miglit possibly be disc<:)vered. In the ccmrse of 
the day I managed to obtain a few matches and a 
piece of candle, unperceived, from the kitchen, during 
a temporary absence of Aunt Phebe. Bass liad pen- 
cil and [)aper in his tool chest. 

At the a])pointed hour we met on the bayou bank, 
and cree}>ing among the liigh Aveeds, I lighted the 
candle, while he drew forth j)encil and paj'cr and pre- 
pared .for business. I gave him the names of Wil- 
liam Perry, Cephas Parker and Judge Marvin, all of 
Saratoga Springs, Saratoga county, New-Yoi-k. I had 
been employed by the latter in the United States 
Hotel, and had transacted business with the former to 
a considerable extent, and trusted that at least one of 
them would be still living at that place. He care- 
fully wrote the names, and then remarked, thought- 

" It is so many years since you left Saratoga, all 
these men may be dead, or nuiy have removed. You 
say you obtained papers at the custom house in New- 
York. Probably there is a record of them there, and 
I ihink it would be well to write and ascertain." 

I agreed with him, and again repeated the circum- 
stances related heretofore, connected with my visit to 
the custom house with Brown and Ilanulton. AVe 
lingered on the bank of the bayou an hour or more, 
conversing uj^on the subject which now engrossed our 

MT FAITH m BASS. - 273 

thoughts. I could no longer doubt his fidelity, and 
freely spoke to him of the many sorrows I had borne 
in silence, and so long, I spoke of my wife and chil- 
dren, mentioning their names and ages, and dwelling 
upon the unspeakable happiness it would be to clasp 
them to my heart once more before I died. I caught 
him by the hand, and with tears and passionate en- 
treaties implored him to befriend me — to restore me 
to my kindred and to liberty — promising I would weary 
Heaven the remainder of my life with prayers that it 
would bless and prosper him. In the enjoyment of 
'freedom — surrounded by the associations of youth, 
and restored to the bosom of my family — that prom- 
ise is not yet forgotten, noi shall it ever be so long as 
I have strength to raise my imploring eyes on high. 

"Oh, blessings on his kindly voice and on his silver hair, 
And blessings on his whole life long, until he meet me there." . 

He overwhelmed me with assurances of friendship 
and faithfulness, saying he had never before taken so 
deep an interest in the fate of any one. lie spoke of 
himself in a somewhat mournful tone, as a lonely 
man, a wanderer about the world — that he was 
growing old, and must soon reach the end of his 
earthly journey, and lie down to his final rest with- 
out kith or kin to mourn for him, or to remember 
him — that his life was of little value to himself, and 
lienceforth should be devoted to the accomplishment 
of my liberty, and to an unceasing warfare against 
the accursed shame of Slavery. 

L* 18 


After tills time ^ve si'ldoin spoke to, or rccog-iiized 
cacli otliir. llv was, inoreovcr, less free in liis coii- 
versatiou Avitli E})ps on the subject of ISlavcrv. The 
remotest sus])iciuu that there was any unusual inthna- 
cy — any secret understanding between us — never 
once entered the mind of Epps, or any other jjcrson, 
white or black, on the plantation. 

I am often asked, with an air of incredulity, how I 
succeeded so numy years in kcei)ing from my daily 
and constant companions the knowledge of my true 
name and history. The terrible lesson 13urcli taught 
me, impressed indelibly upon my mind the danger 
and uselessness of asserting I Avas a freeman. There 
■was no possibility of any slave being able to assist 
me, while, on the other haiul, there 2vas a ]iossibility 
of his exposing me. When it is recollected the whole 
current of my thoughts, for twelve years, turned to the 
contemplation of escape, it will not be wondered at, 
that I was always cautious and on my guard. It 
would have been an act of folly to have proclaimed 
my right to freedom ; it would only have subjected 
me to severer scrutiny — probably have consigned me 
to some more distant and inaccessible region than 
even Bayou Bceuf. Edwin Epps was a person utter- 
ly regardless of a black man's rights or wrongs — ut- 
terly destitute of any natural sense of justice, as I 
well knew. It M-as important, therefore, not only as 
regarded my hope of deliverance, but also as regard- 
ed the few personal priviliges I was permitted to en- 
joy, to keep from Lim the history of my life. 


Tlie Saturday night subsequent to our interview at 
the water's edge, Bass went home to Marksville. The 
next daj, being Sunday, he empk^yed himself in his 
own room writing letters. One he directed to the 
Collector of Customs at New-York, another to Judge 
Marvin, and another to Messrs. Parker and Perry joint- 
ly. The latter was the one which led to my recovery. 
He subscribed my true name, but in the postscript in- 
timated I was not the writer. The letter itself shows 
that he considered himself engaged in a dangerous 
undertakmg — no less than running "the risk of his 
life, if detected." I did not see the letter before it was 
mailed, but have since obtained a copy, which is here 
inserted : 

"Bayou Boeuf, August 15, 1852. 
" Mr. William Perry or ]\Ir. Cephas Pareer : 

" Gentlemen — It having been a long time since I have seen 
or heard from you, and not knowing that you are living, it is 
with uncertainty that I write to you, but the necessity of the 
case must be my excuse. 

" Having been born free, just across the river from you, I am 
certain you must know me, and I am here now a slave. I wish 
you to obtain free papers for me, and forward them to me at 
Marksville, Louisiana, Parish of Avoyelles, and oblige 


" The way I came to be a slave, I was taken sick m Washing- 
ton City, and was msensible for some time. When I recovei*- 
ed my reason, I was robbed of my free -papers, and in irons on 
my way to this State, and have never l)een able to get any one 
to wTite for me imtil now ; and he that is WTiting for me runs 
the risk of his life if detected." 


The allusion to myself in tlic work recently issued, 
entitled " A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin," contains the 
first part of this letter, omitting the postscript. Nei- 
ther are the full names of the gentlemen to whom it 
is directed correctly stated, there lacing a slight dis- 
crepancy, i)ri>l)al)ly a typograpliical err^r. To the 
postscript more than to the body of the communica- 
tion am I indebted for my liberation, as will present- 
ly be seen. 

"When Bass returned from Marksville he informed 
me of what he had done. We continued our mid- 
night consultations, never speaking to each other 
through the day, excepting as it was necessary al)out 
the work. As nearly as he was able to ascertain, it 
•would require two weeks for the letter to reach Sara- 
toga in due course of mail, and the same length of 
time for an answer to return, AVitliin six weeks, at 
the farthest, we concluded, an answer would arrive, if 
it arrived at all. A great many suggestions were 
now made, and a great deal of convei*sation took place 
between us, as to the most safe and proper course to 
pursue on receipt of the free papers. They would 
stand between him and harm, in case we were over- 
taken and arrested leaving the country altogether. It 
■would be no infringement of law, however much it 
might provoke individual hostility, to assist a freeman 
to regain his freedom. 

At the end of four weeks he was again at Marks- 
ville, but no answer had arrived. I was sorely disap- 
pointed, but still reconciled myself with the reflection 


tliat sufficient length of time had not vet elapsed — 
that there might have been delays — and that I could 
not reasonably expect one so soon. Six, seven, eight, 
and ten weeks passed by, however, and nothing came. 
I was in a fever of suspense whenever Bass visited 
Marksville, and could scarcely close my eyes until his 
return. Finally my master's house was finished, and 
the time came when Bass must leave me. The night 
before his departure I Avas wholly given up to despair. 
I had clung to him as a drowning man clings to the 
floating spar, knowing if it slips from his grasp he 
must forever sink beneath the waves. The all-glorious 
hope, upon which I had laid such eager hold, was 
crumbling to ashes in my hands. I felt as if sinking 
down, down, amidst the bitter waters of Slavery, from 
the unfathomable depths of which I should never 
rise again. 

The generous heart of my friend and benefactor was 
touched with pity at the sight of my distress. He en- 
deavored to cheer me up, promising to return the day 
before Christmas, and if no intelligence was received 
in the meantime, some further step would be under- 
taken to effect our design. He exhorted me to keep 
up my spirits — to rely upon his continued eftbrts in 
ni}' behalf, assuring me, in most earnest and impres- 
sive language, that my liberation should, from thence- 
forth, be the chief object of his thoughts. 

In his absence the time passed slowly indeed. I 
looked forward to Christmas with intense anxiety and 
impatience. I had about given up the expectation of 


recolvinij; any answer to tlic letters. They might liave 
niiscarrieil, oi- nii^lit liuve been misdirected. Perhaps 
tliose at Saratoga, to Avhoni tlicy had been afUh-essed, 
Avere all dead ; perhai)s, engaged in their pursuits, 
they did not consider the late of an obscure, unhappy 
black man of sufficient importaiice to be noticed. My 
Avholc reliance was in Bass. The laith I had in him 
was continually re-assuring me, and enabled me to 
stand u[> against the tide of disappointment that had 
oyerwhehned me. 

So wholly was I absorbed in reflecting upon my sit- 
uation and prospects, that the hands w^itli whom I la- 
bored in the field often obseryed it. Patsey would 
ask me if I was sick, and Uncle Abram, and Bob, and 
"Wiley frequently expressed a curiosity to know what 
I ciiuld be thiidcing about so steadily. But I eyaded 
their inquiries with some light remark, and kept my 
thoughts locked closely in my breast. 










Faithftl to liis word, the clay before Christmas, just 
at night-fall, Bass came riding into the yard. 

"How are yc>u," said Epps, shaking him by the 
hand, " glad to see you." 

He would not have been Tcry glad had he known 
the object of his errand. 

"Quite well, quite well," answered Bass. "Had 
some business out on the bayou, and concluded to call 
and see you, and stay over night." 

Epps ordered one of the slaves to take charge of 
his horse, and with much talk and laughter they pass- 
ed into the house together ; not, however, until Bass 
had looked at me significantly, as much as to say, 


" Keep dark, \ve understand each otlicr."^ It was ten 
o'clock at niglit l)efV)re the hiboi-s of the day were per- 
formed, Mhen I entered the cabui. At that time Un- 
cle Ahrani and l>ob occuj)ied it with me. I laid 
down upon my board and feigned I was asleep. 
"Wlien my companions had fallen into a i)rofound 
slumber, I moved stealtiiily out of the door, and watch- 
ed, and listened attentively for some sig-n or sound 
from Bass. Tliere I stood until long after midnight, 
but nothing could be seen or heard. As I suspected, 
lie dared not leave the house, through fear of exciting 
the suspicion of some of the family. I judged, correct- 
ly, he would rise earlier than was his custom, and 
take the opportunity of seeing me before Epps was 
up. Accordingly I aroused Uncle Abram an hour 
Booner than usual, and sent him into the house to build 
a fire, which, at that season of the year, is a part of 
Uncle Abram's duties. 

I also gave B<;>1) a violent shake, and asked him if 
he intended to sleep till noon, saying master would be 
up before the mules were fed. lie knew right well 
the consequence that would follow such an event, and, 
jumping to his feet, was at the hoi-se-pasture in a 

Presently, when both were gone, Bass slipped into 
the cabin. 

" jSTo letter yet, Piatt," said he. The announce- 
ment fell upon my heart like lead. 

" Oh, do write again. Master Bass," I cried ; " I 
•will give you the names of a great many I know. 


Surely tliey are not all dead. Surely some one will 
pity me." 

" 'No use," Bass replied, " no use. I have made up 
my mind to that. I fear the Marksville post-master 
will mistrust something, I have incpiired so often at 
his office. Too uncertain — too dangerous." 

" Then it is all over," I exclaimed. " Oh, my God, 
how can I end my days here !" 

" You're not going to end them here," he said, " un- 
less you die very soon. I've thought this matter all 
over, and have come to a determination. There are 
more ways than one to manage this business, and a 
better and surer way than writing letters. I have a 
job or two on hand which can be completed by March 
or April. By that time I shall have a considerable 
sum of money, and then, Piatt, I am going to Sarato- 
ga myself." 

I could scarcely credit my own senses as the words 
fell from his lips. But he assured me, in a manner 
that left no doubt of the sincerity of his intention, that 
if his life was spared until spring, he should certainly 
undertahe the journey. 

" I have lived in this region long enough," he con- 
tinued ; " I may as well be in one place as another. 
For a long time I have been thinking of going back 
once more to the place Avhere I was born. I'm tired 
of Slavery as well as you. If I can succeed in getting 
you away from here, it will be a good act that I shall 
like to think of all my life. And I shall succeed. 


riatt ; I'm hound to do it. Xow let me tell you what 
I want. Epps -will be up soon, and it won't do to be 
cauii'lit here. Think of a <;reat many men at Sarato- 
ga and Sandy Hill, and in that neighborhood, who 
once knew you. I shall make exense to come here 
again in the course of the winter, when I will write 
down their names. I will then know Mdio to call on 
when I go north. Thiidc of all you can. Cheer up ! 
Don't be discouraged. Vn\ ^\ itli you, lil'e (n- death. 
Good-l)ye. God bless you," aiid saying this he left 
the cabin quickly, and entered the great house. 

It was Cliristnuis morning — the happiest day in the 
whole year for the slave. That morning he need not 
liurry to the field, with his gourd and cotton-bag. 
IIai)piness sparkled in the eyes and overspread the 
countenances of all. The time of feastino; and dancinir 
had come. The cane and cotton fields were deserted. 
That day the clean dress was to be donned — the red 
ribbon displayed; there were to be re-unions, and 
joy and laughter, and hurrying to and fro. It was 
to be a day of liherty among the children of Slavery. 
Wherefore they were hapi)y, and rejoiced. 

After breakfast Epps and Bass sauntered about the 
yard, conversing upon the price of cotton, and va- 
rious other .topics. 

" Where do your niggei-s hold Christmas ?" Bass in- 

"Piatt is going to Tanners to-day. His fiddle is 
in great demand. They want him at Marshall's Mon- 


day, and Miss Mary McCoy, on tlie old jSTonvood 
plantation, writes ni-e a note that slie wants him to 
play for her niggers Tuesday." 

" He is rather a smart boy, ain't he ?" said Bass. 
" Come here, Piatt," he added, looking at me as I 
walked np to them, as if he had never thought before 
to take any special notice of me. 

" Yes," replied Epps, taking hold of my arm and 
feeling it, " there isn't a bad joint in him. There ain't 
a boy on the bayou worth more tlian he is — perfect- 
ly sound, and no bad tricks. D — n him, he isn't like 
other niggers ; doesn't look like 'em — don't act like 
'em. I was ofiered seventeen hundred dollars for him 
last week." 

" And didn't take it ?" Bass inquired, with an air 
of surprise. 

"Take it — no; devilish clear of it. Wliy, he's a 
reg'lar genius ; can make a plough beam, wagon 
tongue — anything, as well as you can. Marshall 
wanted to put up one of his niggers agin him and raf- 
fle for them, but 1 told him I would see the devil have 
him first." 

" I don't see anything remarkable about him," Bass 

" Why, just feel of him, now," Epps rejoined. 
" You don't see a boy very often put together any 
closer than he is. lie's a thin-skin'd cuss, and won't 
bear as much whipping as some ; but he's got the 
muscle in him, and no mistake. 

Bass felt of me, turned me round, and made a 


thorough examination, Epps all the while dwelling on 
my good points. But his visitor seemed to take but 
little interest tinally in the suhject, and consequently 
it was dropped. Bass soon departed, giving me an- 
othur sly look of recognition and significance, as he 
trotted out of the yard. 

When he was gone I obtained a pass, and started 
for Tanner's — not Peter Tanner's, of whom mention 
has previously been made, but a relative of his. I 
played during the day and most of the night, spend- 
ing the next day, Sunday, in my cabin. Monday I 
crossed the bayou to Douglas Marshall's, all Epps' 
slaves accompanying me, and on Tuesday .went to the 
old iSTorwood place, which is the third plantation 
above Marshall's, on the same side of the water. 

Tliis estate is now OAvned by Miss Mary McCoy, a 
lovely girl, some twenty years of age. She is the beau- 
ty and the glory of Bayou Boeuf. She owns about a 
hundred working hands, besides a great many house 
servants, yard boys, and young children. Her broth- 
er-in-law, who resides on the adjoining estate, is her 
general agent. She is beloved by all her slaves, and 
good reason indeed have they to be thankful that they 
have fallen into such o-entle hands. Nowhere on the 
bayou are there such feasts, such merrymaking, as at 
young Madam McCoy's. Thither, more than to any 
other place, do the old and the young for miles around 
love to repair in the time of the Christmas holidays ; 
for nowhere else can they find such delicious repasts; 
nowhere else can they hear a voice speaking to them 


80 pleasantly. Ko one is so well beloved — no one 
fills so large a space in the hearts of a thous'and slaves, 
as young Madam McCoy, the orphan mistress of the 
old Norwood estate. 

On my arrival at her place, I found two or three 
hundred had assembled. The table was prepared in 
a long building, which she had erected expressly for 
her slaves to dance in. It was covered with every 
variety of food the country afforded, and was pro- 
nounced by general acclamation to be the rarest of 
dinners. Roast turkey, pig, chicken, duck, and all 
kinds of meat, baked, boiled, and broiled, formed a 
line the whole length of the extended table, while the 
vacant spaces were tilled with tarts, jellies, and frost- 
ed cake, and pastry of many kinds. The young mis- 
tress walked around the table, smiling and saying a 
kind word to each one, and seemed to enjoy the scene 

When the dinner was over the tables were remov- 
ed to make room for the dancers. I tuned my violin 
and struck up a lively air ; while some joined in a 
nimble reel, others patted and sang their simple but 
melodious songs, filling the great room with music 
mingled with the sound of human voices and the clat- 
ter of many feet. 

In the evening the mistress returned, and stood in 
the door a long time, looking at us. She was magnifi- 
cently arrayed. Her dark hair and eyes contrasted 
strongly with her clear and delicate complexion. 
Her form was slender but commanding, and her 


movement was a combination of nnaft'ected dignity 
and grace. As she stood there, clad in her rich ap- 
parel, her face animated with })leasure, I thought I had 
never looked uikhi a luunaii ln'ing halt' so beautifuL 
1 dwell with delight upon the description of this fair 
and gentle lady, not only because she inspired me 
with emotions of gratitude and admiration, but be- 
cause I would have the reader understand that all 
slave-ownei"s on Bayou Boouf are not like Epps, or 
Tibeats, or elim Burns. Occasionally can be found, 
rarely it nuiy be, indeed, a good iiian like AVilliani 
Ford, or an angel of kindness like young Mistress 

Tuesday concluded the three holidays Epps yearly 
allowed us. On my way home, Wednesday morning, 
while i)assing the jdantation of William Pierce, that 
gentleman hailed me, saying he had received a line 
from Epps, brought down by William Varnell, per- 
mitting him to detain me f(^r the pui-jDOse of playing 
for his slaves that night. It was the last time I was 
destined to witness a slave dance on the shores of Ba- 
you Boeuf. The party at Bierce's continued their Jol- 
lification until broad daylight, when I returned to my 
m'aster's house, somewhat wearied with the loss of 
rest, but rejoicing in the possession of numerous bits 
and picayunes, which tlio whites, who were pleased 
with my musical performances, had contributed. 

On Saturday morning, for the first time in years, I 
overslejit myself. I was frightened on coming out of 
the cabin to lind the slaves were already in the field. 


They had 2:)recedecl me some fifteen minutes. Leav- 
ing mj dinner and water-gourd, I hurried after them 
as last as I could move. It was not yet sunrise, but 
Epps was on the piazza as I left the hut, and cried out 
to me that it was a pretty time of day to be getting 
up. By extra exertion my row was uj) when he came 
out after breakfast. This, however, was no excuse for 
the offence of oversleeping. Bidding me strip and lie 
down, he gave me ten or fifteen lashes, at the conclu- 
sion of which he inquired if I thought, after that, I 
could get up sometime in the 'inorning. I expressed 
myself quite positively that I could, and, with back 
stinging with pain, went about my work. 

The following day, Sunday, my thoughts were upon 
Bass, and the probabilities and hopes which hung 
upon his action and determination. I considered the 
uncertainty of life ; that if it should be the will of 
God that he should die, my prospect of deliverance, and 
all expectation of haj^piness in this world, would be 
wholly ended and destroyed. My sore back, perhaps, 
did not have a tendency to render me unusually cheer- 
ful. I felt down-hearted and unhappy all day long, 
and when I laid down upon the hard board at night, 
my heart was oppressed with such a load of grief, it 
seemed that it must break. 

Monday morning, the third of January, 1853, we 
were in the field betimes. It was a raw, cold morn- 
ing, such as is unusual in that region. I was in ad- 
vance, Uncle Abram next to me, behind him Bob, 
Patsey and Wiley, with our cotton-bags about our 


necks. Epps happened (a rare thing, indeed,) to come 
out that niornini:; without his wliip. lie swore, in a 
manner that woiihl slianie a pirate, that we were do- 
ing notliing. Bob veuturi'd to say that his lingers 
were so numb with cokl he couldn't pick fast, Epps 
cursed liiniself for not having brought his rawhide, 
and dechircd that wlien he came out again he would 
warm us well ; yes, he would make us all hotter than 
that hery realm in wliich I am sometimes compelled 
to believe he will himself eventually reside. 

"With these fervent expressions, he left us. When 
out of hearing, we commenced talking to each other, 
saying how hard it was to be compelled to keep up 
our tasks with numb fingers ; how unreasonable mas- 
ter was, and speaking of him generally in no flatter- 
ing terms. Our conversation was interrupted by a 
carriage j^assing rapidly towards the house. Looking 
up, we saw tw'o men ajjproaching us through the cot- 

Having now brought down this narrative to the last 
hour I was to spend on Bayou Bojuf — having got- 
ten through my last cotton picking, and about to bid 
Master Epps farcM'ell — I must beg the reader to go 
back with me to the month of August ; to follow Bass' 
letter on its long journey to Saratoga; to learn the 
efi'ect it produced — and that, while I was repining 
and despairing in the slave hut of Edwin Ej)ps, 
through the friendship of Bass and the goodness of 
Providence, all things were working together for my 










I AM indebted to Mr. Ileniy B. JSTortlnip and oth- 
ers for many of tlie particulars contained in this 
chapter. ^ 

The letter written by Bass, directed to Parker and 
Perry, and which was de230sited in the post-ofhce in 
Marksville on the 15th day of August, 1852, arrived 
at Saratoga in the early part of September. Some 
time previous to tliis, Anne had removed to Glens 
Falls, Warren county, where she had charge of the 
kitchen in Carpenter's Hotel. Slie kept house, how- 
ever, lodging with our children, and was only absent 
from them during such time as tlie discharge of her 
duties in the hotel rec[uired. 

M 19 

290 TWKLVK Yi;\KS A SI..VVF.. 

Messrs. Parker uivl Tc-rrv, on rcccii't of the letter, 
forwarded it iuiinedintelj to Anne. On reading it 
the children were all excitement, and Mithmit delay 
hastened to the neiiihhorlnf!; vilhiii-e of Sandy Hill, 
to consult Ilv'nry J>. Xorthup, and obtain his advice 
and assistance in tlie matter. 

Upon examination, that gentleman found among 
the statutes of the State an act providing for the re- 
covery of free citizens from slavery. It was passed 
May 14, 184:0, and is entitled "An act more eifectu- 
ally to protect the free citizens of this State from 
heing kidnapped or reduced to slavery." It provides 
that it shall be the duty of the Governor, u})on the re- 
ceipt of satisfactory information that any free citizen or 
inhabitant of this State, is wrongfully held in another 
State or Territory of the United States, upon the al- 
legation or pretence that such person is a slave, or 
by color of any usage or rule of law is deemed or 
taken to be a slave, to take such measures to procure 
the restoration of such person to liberty, as he shall 
deem necessary. And to that end, he is authorized 
to ap})oint and employ an agent, and directed to fur- 
nish ]um with such credentials and instructions as will 
be likely to accomplish the object of his appointment. 
It requires the agent so appointed to proceed to col- 
lect the proper proof to establish the right of such 
person to his freedom ; to perform such journeys, take 
such measures, institute such legal proceedings, t^'c, 
as may be necessary to return such person to this 
State, and charges all expenses incurred in carrying 

Anne's memoeial to the gomskxor. 291 

tlie act into efFect, upon 'moneys not otbel•^v'ise ap- 
propriated in the treasury. '■'" 

It was necessary to establish two facts to the satis- 
faction of tlie Governor : First, that I was a free citi- 
zen of Xew-York ; and secondly, that I was wrong- 
fully held in bondage. As to the first point, there 
was no ditficulty, all the older inhabitants in the vi- 
cinity being ready to testify to it. The second point 
rested entirely upon the letter to Parker and Perry, 
written in an unknown hand, and upon the letter pen- 
ned on board the brig Orleans, which, unfortunately, 
had been mislaid or lost. 

A memorial was prepared, directed to his excellen- 
cy, Governor Hunt, setting forth her marriage, my 
departure to Washington city ; the receipt of the let- 
ters ; that I was a free citizen, and sucli other facts as 
were deemed important, and was signed and verilied 
by Anne. Accompanying this memorial were sever- 
al affidavits of prominent citizens of Sandy Hill and 
Fort Edward, corroborating fully the statements it 
contained, and also a request of several well known 
gentlemen to the Governor, that Fleury B. jSTorthup 
be appointed agent under the legislative act. 

On reading the memorial and affidavits, his excel- 
lency took a lively interest in the matter, and on the 
23d day of ISTovember, 1852, under the seal of the 
State, " constituted, appointed and employed Henry 
P. I^orthup, Esq., an agent, v\'ith full power to effect" 
my restoration, and to take such measures as would 

* See Appendix A. 

203 T^VI•:L^'E ykaus a slavk. 

be mn^il likely to accom|ill^li it, and instructing liim 
to i)i'oct.'L'(l to Louisiana with all convenient dispatch.* 

Tiie ])ressing nature of ]\[r. Xorthup's professional 
and ])()litical engagements delayed his departure un- 
til DecendK'r, On the fourteenth day of that niontli 
he left Sandy Hill, and proceeded to AVashington. 
The Hon. Pierre Soule, Senator in Congress from Lou- 
isiana, Hon. Mr. Com-ad, Secretary of War, and 
Judge Xels<~»n, of the Supreme Court of the United 
States, upon hearing a statement of the facts, and ex- 
amining his commission, and certified copies of the 
memorial and affidavits, furnished him with open let- 
ters to gentlemen in Louisiana, strongly urging their 
assistance in acconi]tlishing the ohject of his ap- 

Senator Soule especially interested himself in the 
matter, insisting, in forcible language, that it was the 
duty and interest of every planter in his State to aid 
in restoring me to freedom, and trusted the sentiments 
of honor and justice in the bosom of every citizen of 
the commonwealtli would enlist him at once in my 
behalf. Having obtained these valuable letters, Mr. 
I^orthup returned to Baltimore, and proceeded from 
thence to Pittsburgh. It was his original intention, 
under advice of friends at AVashington, to go directly 
to Xew Orleans, aiul consult the authorities of that 
city. Providentially, however, on arriving at the 
moutli of Red lliver, he changed his mind. Had he 
continued on, he would not have met with Bass, in 

* See Appendix B. 


"wliicli case the scarcli for me would })rnl)a1jly have 
been fruitless. 

Taking passage on the first steamer that arrived, 
he pursued his journey up lied liiver, a sluggish, 
winding stream, flowing through a vast regi«)n of 
primitive forests and impenetrahle swamps, almost 
wholly destitute of inhahitants. About nine o'clock in 
the forenoon, January 1st, 1S53, he left the steamboat 
at Marksville, and proceeded directly to Marksville 
Court House, a small village four miles in the interior. 

From the fact that the letter to Messrs. Parker and 
Perry was post-marked at Marksville, it was supposed 
by him that I was in that place or its immediate vi- 
cinity. On reaching this town, he at once laid his 
business before the Hon. John P. Waddill, a legal 
gentleman of distinction, and a man of fine genius 
and most noble impulses. After reading the letters 
and documents presented him, and listening to a rep- 
resentation of the circumstances under which I had 
been carried away into captivity, Mr. AYaddill at 
once proftered his services, and entered into the af- 
fair with great zeal and earnestness. He, in common 
with others of like elevated character, looked upon 
the kidnapper with abhorrence. The title of his fel- 
low j^arishioners and clients to the property which 
constituted the larger proportion of their wealth, not 
only depended upon the good faith in which slave 
sales were transacted, but he was a man in whose 
honorable heart emotions of indignation were aroused 
by such an instance of injustice. 


i\[jirksvillo, altliDiio-li occujiyiiiij; a ])ri»iiiiiicnt posi- 
tion, and staiulin^- out in iiupressivu italics on the 
niai> t>t" Louisiana, is, in i'act, but u small and insig- 
nilicant luunk-t. Aside from the tavern, kept hy a 
jolly and generous boniface, the court house, inhabi- 
ted by lawless cows and swine in the seasons of va- 
cation, and a high gallows, witli its dissevered rope 
dangling in the air, there is little to attract the at- 
tention of the stranger. 

Solomon Northup was a name ^Iv. AVaddlll had 
never heard, but lie was confident that if there was 
a slave bearing that a])pellation in Marksville or vi- 
cinity, his black boy Tom would know him. Tom 
was accordingly called, but in all his extensive cir- 
cle of acquaintances there was no sudi personage. 

The letter to Parker and Perry was dated at Eayou 
Bceuf. At this place, therefore, the conclusion was, 
I must be sought. But here a ditticulty suggested 
itself, of a very grave character indeed. Bayou Bceuf, 
at its nearest point, was twenty-three miles distant, 
and was the name applied to the section of country 
extending between fifty and a hundred miles, on 
bo\h sides of that stream, llionsands and thousands 
of slaves resided upon its shores, the remarkable 
richness and fertility^ of the soil having attracted 
thither a great number of planters. The information 
in the letter was so vagne and indefinite as to render 
it difticult to conclude upon any specific course of 
proceeding. It was finally determined, however, as 
the only plan that presented any prospect of success, 


that Xortlnip and the Lrother of Vraddill, a student 
in the othce of the hitter, sliouhl repair to the Bayou, 
and traveling- np one side and down the its 
whole length. in([nire at each plantation for me. Mr. 
AYaddill tendered the use of his carriage, and it was 
definitely arranged tliat they should start upon the 
excursion early Monday morning. 

It Avill he seen at once that tliis course, in all proh- 
ahility, would have resulted unsuccessfully. It would 
have been impossible fur them to have gone into tlie 
fields and examine all the gangs at v.'ork. They 
were not avrare that I was known only as Piatt ; and 
had they inrpiired of Epps himself, he would have 
stated truly that he knew nothing of Solomon 

The arrangement being adopted, liowever, there 
was nothing further to be done until Sunday had 
elapsed. The conversation between Messrs. Xorthup 
and 'Waddill, in the course of the afternoon, turned 
upon Xew-York politics. 

" I can scarcely comprehend the nice distinc- 
tions and shades of political parties in your State," 
observed Mr. Waddill. " I read of soft-shells and 
hard-shells, hunkers and barnburners, woolly-heads 
and silver-grays, and am unable to understand the 
precise difference between them. Pray, what is it ?" 

Mr. Xorthup, re-filling his pipe, entered into quite 
an elaborate narrative of the origin of the various 
sections of parties, and concluded by saying there was 
another party in Xew-York, known as free-soilers or 


abolitionists. " You have seen none of those in this 
part of the country, I presume 'j" Mr. iS'orthup re- 

" Never, but one," answered "Waddill, langliingly. 
" We have one here in Marksville, an eccentric crea- 
ture, who preaches abolitionism as vehemently as any 
fanatic at the Xorth. lie is a generous, inoffensive 
man, but always maintaining the wrong side of an 
aro-ument. It affords us a deal of amusement. He 
is an excellent mechanic, and almost indispensable in 
this community. He is a carpenter. His name is 

Some further good-natured conversation was had at 
the expense of Bass' peculiarities, when AVaddill all 
at once fell into a reflective mood, and asked for the 
mysterious letter again. 

"Let me see — 1-e-t m-e s-e-e !" he repeated, 
thougtitfnlly to himself, running his eyes over the let- 
ter once more. " ' Bayou Bceuf, August 15.' August 
15 — post-marked here. ' He that is writing for me — ' 
TTliere did Bass work last summer ?" he inrpiired, 
turning suddenly to his brother. His brother was 
unable to inform him, but rising, left the ofiice, and 
soon returned with the intellijjence that " Bass work- 
ed last summer somewhere on Bayou Bceuf." 

"He is the man," 'bringing down his hand emphat- 
ically on the table,'" who can tell us all about Sol- 
omon ISTorthup," exclaimed Waddill. 

Bass was immediately searched for, but could not 
be found. After some inrpiiry, it was ascertained ho 


was at the landing on Red River. Procuring a con- 
veyance, young "W^addill and jSTortliup were not long 
in traversing the few miles to the latter place. On 
their arrival, Bass was found, just on the point of leav- 
ing, to be absent a fortnight or more. After an in- 
troduction, Northup begged the privilege of speaking 
to him privately a moment. They walked together 
towards the river, when the following conversation 
ensued : 

" j\Ir. Bass," said ISTorthup, " allow me to ask you 
if you were on Bayou Boeuf last August ? " 

" Yes, sir, I was there in August," was the reply. 

" Did you write a letter for a colored man at that 
place to some gentleman in Saratoga Springs ? " 

" Excuse me, sir, if I say that is none of your busi- 
ness," answered Bass, stopping and looking his inter- 
rogator searchingly in the face. 

" Perhaps I am rather hasty, Mr. Bass ; I beg your 
pardon ; but I have come from the State of ]^ew-York 
to accomplish the purpose the writer of a letter dated 
the 15th of August, post-marked at JMarksville, had 
in view. Circumstances have led me to think that 
you are perhaps the man who wrote it. I am in 
search of Solomon North up. If you know him, I beg 
you to inform me frankly where he is, and I assure 
you the source of any information you may give me 
shall not be divulged, if you desire it not to be." 

A long time Bass looked his new acquaintance 
steadily in the eyes, without opening his lips. He 
Beemed to be doubting in his own mind if there was 


29S TWELVE yt:ar3 a slave. 

not tin Jitteinpt to practice some deception upon liim. 
Finally he said, deliberately — 

" I have done nothing to he ashamed of. I am the 
man wIkj wrote the letter. If you have come to res- 
cue SoloiiKni Xorthup, I aju glad to see you." 

'' When did you last see him, and where is he?" 
jSorthup in({uircd. 

'• I hist saw him Christmas, a week ago to-day. 
lie is the slave ot' IMwin I'-pps, a planter on Bayou 
Bueuf, near llolmesville. lie is not known as Solo- 
mon Xorthup ; he is called Piatt." 

Tlie secret was out — the mystery was unraveled. 
Tlirough the thick, ])]ack cloud, amid M'hose dark and 
disnuil shadows I had walked twelve years, broke the 
star that was to liglit me back to liberty. All mis- 
trust and hesitation were soon thrown aside, and the 
two men conversed long and freely upon the subject 
uppermost in their thoughts. Bass expressed the 
interest he had taken in my behalf — his intention of 
going north in the Spring, and declaring that lie had 
resolved to accomplish my emancipation, if it were in 
Ins power. He described the commencemeTit and 
progress of liis ac(piaintance with me, and listened 
with eager curiosity to the account given him of my 
family, and the histor}' of my early life. Before sep- 
arating, he drew a map of the bayou on a strip of paper 
witli a piece of I'ed chalk, showing the locality of Epps' 
plantation, and the road leading most directly to it. 

Korthup and his young companion returned to 
Marksville, where it was determined to commence 


legal proceedings to test the question of my rig-lit to 
freedom. I was made plaintitt", Mr. Xortliiip acting 
as my guardian, and Edwin Epps defendant. The 
process to be issued was in the nature of replevin, di- 
rected to tlie sheritf of the parisli, commanding him 
to take me into custody, and detain me until the de- 
cision of the court. Bj the time the papers were duly 
drawn up, it was twelve o'clock at niglit — ^too hite to 
obtain tlie necessary signature of the Judge, who resi- 
ded some distance out of town. Further business was 
therefore suspended until Monday morning. 

Everything, apparently, was moving ah)ng swim- 
mingly, until Sunday afternoon, when Waddill called 
at jSTorthup's room to express his apj)rehension of dif- 
ficulties they had not expected to encounter. Bass 
had become alarmed, and had placed his aifairs in 
the hands of a person at the landing, communicating 
to him his intention of leaving the State. Tliis per- 
son had betrayed the confidence reposed in him to a 
certain extent, and a rumor began to float about the 
town, that the stranger at the hotel, who had been 
observed in the company of lawyer Waddill, was after 
one of old Epps' slaves, over on the bayou. Epps 
was known at Marksville, having frequent occasion 
to visit that place during the session of the courts, and 
the fear entertained by Mr. jSTorthup's adviser was, 
that intelligence would be conveyed to him in the 
night, giving him an opportunity of secreting me be- 
fore the arrival of the sheriff. 

This apprehension had the efi'ect of expediting mat- 


ters considerably. Tlie slierilt", wlio lived in one direc- 
tion from the villui^e, was requested to hold himself 
in readiness immediately after midnight, while the 
Jud^'e was informed he would be called upon at the 
same time. It is but justice to say, that the authori- 
ties at Marksvillo cheerfully rendered all the assist- 
ance in their power. 

As soon after midnight as bail could be perfected, 
and the Judge's signature obtained, a carriage, con- 
taining Mr. Xorthup and the sheriff, driven by the 
landlord's son, rolled rapidly out of the village of 
Marksville, on the road towards Bayou Boeuf. 

It was supposed that Ei)ps would contest the issue 
involving my right to liberty, and it therefore sug- 
gested itself to Mr. Xorthup, that the testimony of the 
shenff, describing my first meeting with the for- 
mer, might perhaps become material on the trial. 
It was accordingly arranged during the ride, that, 
before I had an opportunity of sj^eaking to Mr. 
Xorthup, the sheriff should propound to me cer- 
tain questions agreed upon, such as the number and 
names of my children, the name of my wife before 
marriage, of places I knew at the Xorth, and so forth. 
If my answers corresponded with the statements giv- 
en him, the evidence must necessarily be considered 

At length, shortly after Epps had left the field, with 
the consoling assurance that he M'ould soon return and 
warm us, as was stated in the conclusion of the pre- 
ceding chapter, they came in sight of the plantation, 


and discovered us at -work. Aligliting from the car- 
riage, and directing the driver to proceed to the great 
house, with instructions not to mention to any one 
the object of their errand until they met again, Korth- 
up and the sheriff turned from the highway, and came 
towards us across the cotton field. AVe observed them, 
on looking up at the carriage — one several rods in 
advance of the other. It was a singular and unusual 
thing to see white men approaching us in that man- 
ner, and especially at that early hour in the morning, 
and Uncle Abram and Patsey made some remarks, 
expressive of their astonishment. Walking up to 
Bob, the sheriff inquired : 

" Where's the boy they call Piatt ? " 

" Tliar he is, massa," answered Bob, pointing to mo, 
and twitching off his hat. 

I wondered to myself what business he could pos- 
sibly' have with me, and turning round, gazed at him 
until he had approached within a step. During my 
long residence on the bayou, I had become familiar 
with the face of every planter within many miles ; 
but this man was an utter stranger — certainly I had 
never seen him before. 

" Your name is Piatt, is it ? " he asked. 

" Yes, master," I responded. 

Pointing towards Xorthup, standing a few rods dis- 
tant, he demanded — " Do you know that man ? " 

I looked in the direction indicated, and as my eyes 
rested on his countenance, a world of images thronged 
my brain ; a multitude of well-known faces — Anne's, 


and the tlcar cliiUlrcuV, and my old dead father "s ; all 
the scenes and associations of childliDod and youth ; 
all the friends of other and happier days, a})}>earOd 
and disa])})eared, Hitting and lloating- like dissolving 
shadows before the vision of my imagination, nntil at 
last the perfect memory of the man recurred to me, 
and throwing up my hands towards Heaven, I ex- 
claimed, in a voice louder than I could utter in a less 
exciting moment — 

" ILnrij B. North up ! Tliank God — thank God ! " 

In an instant I comprehended the nature of his busi- 
ness, and felt that the hour of my deliverance was at 
liaiul. I started towards him, but the sherilf stepped 
before me. 

"Sto]) a moment," said he ; " have you any other 
name than Piatt ? " 

" Solomon Xorthup is my name, master," I replied. 

" Have you a family ? " he inquired. 

" I had a wife and tliree children." 

"What were your cliildren's names? " 

"Elizabetli, Margaret and Alonzo." 

" And your wife's name before her marriage ? " 

"Anne Hampton." 

" Who married you \ " 

"Timothy Kddy, of Fort Edward." 

" AVliere does that gentleman live ? " again pointing 
to Northu]), who remained standing in the same place 
where I had first recognizetl him. 

" He lives in Sandy Hill, AVashington county, Xew 
York," -was the reply. 

THE ilEETIXG. 303 

He was proceeding to ask furtlier questions, Lut I 
pushed past him, unable hjnger to restrain myself. 
I seized my old acquaintance by both luxnds. I could 
not S2:)eak. I coidd not refrain from tears. 

'' Sol," he said at length, " Tm glad to see you." 

I essayed to make some answer, but emotion choked 
all utterance, and I was silent. The slaves, utterly 
confounded, stood gazing upon the scene, their open 
mouths and rolling eyes indicating the utmost wonder 
and astonishment. For ten years I had dwelt among 
them, in the field and in the cabin, borne the same 
hardships, partaken the same fare, mingled my griefs 
with theirs, participated in the same scanty joys ; 
nevertheless, not until this hour, the last I was to re- 
main among them, had the remotest susj^icion of my 
true name, or the slightest knowledge of my real his- 
tory, been entertained by any one of them. 

jSTot a word was spoken for several minutes, during 
which time I flung fast to JSTorthup, looking up into 
his face, fearful I shoidd awake and find it all a 

" Throw down that sack," Xorthup added, finally ; 
" your cotton-picking days are over. Come with us 
to the man you live with." 

I obeyed him, and walking between him and the 
sheriff, Vv'e moved towards the great house. It was 
not until we had proceeded some distance that I had 
recovered my voice sutiiciently to ask if my family 
were all living. lie informed me lie had seen Anno, 
^Margaret and Elizabeth but a short time previously; 


that Alonzo ^vas also living, and all 'were well. My 
mother, however, I could never see again. As I be- 
gan to recover in some measure from the sudden and 
great excitement which so overwhelmed me, I grew 
faint and weak, insomuch it was with ditliculty I could 
walk. The sherilf took hold of my arm and assisted 
me, or I think I should have Mien. As we entered 
the yard, Epps stood by the gate, conversing with the 
driver. That young num, faithful to his instructions, 
was entirely unable to give him the least information 
in answer to his repeated inquiries of what was going 
on. By the time we reached him he was almost as 
much amazed and puzzled as Bob or Uncle Abram. 
Shaking hands with the sheriff, and receiving an 
introduction to Mr. Xorthup, he invited them into the 
house, ordering me, at the same time, to bring in 
some wood. It was some time before I succeeded in 
cutting an armful, having, somehow, unaccountably 
lost the power of wielding the axe with any manner 
of })recision. AVHien I entered Avith it at last, the 
table was strewn with papers, from one of which 
Korthup was reading. I was probably longer than 
necessity required, in placing the sticks u2K>n the lire, 
being particular as to the exact position of each indi- 
vidual one of them. I heard the words, " the said 
Solomon Xorthup," and " the dejionent further says," 
and "free citizen of ]\cw-Y(irk," repeated frequently, 
and from these expressions understood that the secret 
I had so long retained from Master and ]\[istress Epps, 
was finally developing. I lingered as long as pru- 


dence perraitted, and was about leavijii^ tlie room, 
"wlicn Epps inquired, 

" Piatt, do you Icnow tliis gentleman ? " 

" Yes, master," I replied, " I liave kno^vn liim as 
long as I can remember." 

" Wliere does lie live ? " 

" lie lives in ]S^ew-York." 

" Did you ever live there ? " 

" Yes, master — born and bred there." 

" You was free, then. Now you d d nigger," 

he exclaimed, " why did you not tell me that when I 
bought you '. " 

"Master Epps," I answered, in a somewhat differ- 
ent tone tlum the one in which I had been accustomed 
to address him — ^ Master Epps, you did not take the 
trouble to ask me ; besides, I told one of my owners — 
the man that kidnapped me — that I was free, and 
was whipped almost to death for it." 

" It seems there has been a letter wi'itten for you by 
somebody. Xow, who is it ? " he demanded, authori- 
tatively. I made no reply. 

" I say, who wrote that letter ? " he demanded 

" Perhaps I wrote it myself," I said. 

" You haven't been to Marksville post-office and 
back before light, I know." 

He insisted upon my informing him, and I insisted 
I would not. He made many vehement threats against 
the man, whoever he might be, and intinuited the 
bloody and savage vengeance he would -wreak upon 



him, when lie found him out. His whole manner 
and language exhibited a feeling of anger towards the 
unkuttwn j)erson who had written for me, and of fret- 
fulness at the idea of losing so much property. Ad- 
dressing Mr. jSTorthup, he swore if he had only had an 
hour's notice of his coming, he woidd have saved him 
the trouble of taking me back to Kew-York ; that he 
would have run me into the swamp, or some other 
place out of the way, where all the sheriii's on earth 
coulthTt have found me. 

I walked out into the yard, and was entering the 
kitchen door, when something struck me in the back. 
Aunt Phebe, emerging from the back door of the 
great house with a pan of potatoes, had thrown one 
of them with unnecessary violence, thereby giving 
me to understand that she wished to speak to me a 
moment confidentially. Iwunning up to me, she whis- 
pered in my ear with great earnestness, 

" Lor a' mity, Piatt ! what d'ye think ? Dem two 
men come after ye. Heard 'em tell rnassa you free — ■ 
got wife and tree children back thar wliar you ccmie 
from. Goin' wid 'em? Fool if ye don't — wish I 
could go," and Aunt Phebe ran on in this manner at 
a rapid rate. 

Presently Mistress Epps made her appearance in 
the kitchen. She said many things to me, and won- 
dered why I had not told her who I was. She ex- 
pressed her regret, complimenting me by saying she 
had rather lose any other servant on the plantation. 
Had Patsey that day stood in my place, the measure 


of my mistress' joy would have overflowed. IN'ow 
there was no one left who could mend a chair or a 
piece of furniture — no one who was of any use about 
the house — no one mIio could play for her on the vio- 
lin — and Mistress Epps was actually afiected to tears. 

Epps had called to Bob to bring up his saddle horse. 
Tlie other slaves, also, overcoming their fear of the 
penalty, had left their work and come to the yard. 
They were standing behind the cabins, out of sight of 
Epps. Tliey beckoned me to come to them, and with 
all the eagerness of curiosity, excited to the highest 
pitch, conversed with and questioned me. If I could 
repeat the exact words they uttered, with the same 
emphasis — if I could paint their several attitudes, and 
the expi-ession of their countenances — it would be 
indeed an interesting picture. In their estimation, I 
had suddenly arisen to an immeasurable height — had 
become a being of immense importance. 

The legal papers having been served, and arrange- 
ments made with Epps to meet them tlie next day at 
Marksville, Xorthup and the sheriff entered the 
carriage to return to the latter place. As I was about 
mounting to the driver's seat, the sheriff said I ought 
to bid Mr. and Mrs. Epps good bye. I ran back to 
the piazza where they were standing, and taking off 
my hat, said, 

"' Good-bye, missis." 

" Good-bye, Piatt," said Mrs. Epps, kindly. 

" Good-bye, master." 

" Ah I you d — ^d nigger," muttered Epps, in a surly, 


malicious tone of voice, " you needn't feel so cussed 
tickled — you ain't gone yet — I'll see about this busi- 
ness at Marksville to-morrow." 

I was only a "• nigger' and knew my place, but felt 
as strongly as if I had l)een a white man, that it 
wonld have been an inward comfoi-t, had I dared to 
liave given him a parting kick. On my way back to 
the carriage, Patsey ran from behind a caltin and 
threw her arms about my neck. 

" Oh I Piatt," she cried, tears streaming down her 
face, "you're goin' to be free — you're gt»in' Avay off 
yonder where we'll neber see ye any mure. You've 
saved me a good many whip])ins, Piatt ; Pm glad 
you're g(»in' to be ^yqq — but oh! de Loj"d, de Lord! 
what'll become of me?" 

I disengaged myself from her, and entered the 
carriage. The driver cracked his whip and away we 
rolled. I looked back and saw Patsey, with drooping 
head, half reclining on the ground ; Mrs. Epps was on 
the piazza ; Uncle Abram, and Bob, and AViley, and 
Aunt Phebe stood by the gate, gazing after me. I 
waved my hand, but the carriage turned a bend of 
the bayou, hiding them from my eyes forever. 

We stopped a moment at Carey's sugar house, 
where a great number of slaves were at work, such 
an establishment being a curiosity to a Xorthern nian. 
E})ps dashed by us on horseback at full speed — on 
the way, as we learned next day, to the "Pine 
AVoods," to see William Ford, who had brought me 
into the countrv. 


Tuesday, the fourtli of January, Epps and Iiis coun- 
sel, the Hon. PI. Tayh:)r, Xorthup, Waddill, the Judge 
and sheriff of Avoyelles, and myself, met in a room 
in the village of Marksville. Mr. Xorthup stated the 
facts in regard to me, and presented his commission, 
and the affidavits accompanying it. The sheriff de- 
scribed the scene in the cotton field. I was also 
interrogated at great length. Finally, Mr. Taylor 
assured his client that he was satisfied, and that liti- 
gation would not only be expensive, but utterly use- 
less. In accordance with his advice, a paper was 
drawn up and signed by the proper parties, wherein 
Epps acknowledged he was satisfied of my right to 
freedom, and formally surrendered me to the authori- 
ties of Xew-York. It was also stipulated that it be 
entered of record in the recorder's office of Avoy- 

Mr. Xorthup and myself immediately hastened to 
the landing, and taking passage on the first steamer 
that arrived, were soon floating doM'n Ked Iliver, np 
which, with such desponding thoughts, I had been 
borne twelve years before. 

* See Appendix C. 







As the steamer glided on its May towards Kew- 
Orleans, iicrha/ps I Avas not liai)2\v — lyevKaps tliere 
was no ditlicnltv in restrainino- myself from dancing 
round the deck — perliaps I did not feel grateful to 
the man who liad come so many hundred miles for 
me — perhaps I did not light his pipe, and wait and 
watch his word, and run at his slightest bidding. K 
I didn't — well, no matter. 

AVe tarried at New-Orleans two days. During that 
time I ])i)iuted out the locality of Freenum's slave 
pen, and the room in which Ford purchased me. We 
happened to meet Theophilus in the street, but I did 
not thiidc it worth while to renew acquaintance with 
him. From respectable citiziMw we ascertained he 
had become a low, miserable row<ly — a broken-down, 
disreputable man. 


"We also visited the recorder, Mr. Genois, to whom 
Senator Soule's letter was directed, and found him a 
man well deserving the wide and honorable reputa- 
tion that he bears. lie verj generously furnished us 
with a sort of legal pass, over his signature and seal 
of office, and as it contains the recorder's description 
of my personal appearance, it may not be amiss to in- 
sert it here. The following is a copy : 

" State of Louisiana — City of Kew- Orleans : 
Recorder's Office, Second District. 
" To all to whom these presents shall come : — 

'• This is t<D certify that Ilemy B. Northiip, Esquire, of the 
county of Washington, New-York, has produced before me due 
evidence of the fi'eedom of Solomon, a inuhitto man, aged 
about forty-two years, five feet, seven inches and six lines, woolly 
hair, and chestnut eyes, who is a native born of the State of 
New- York. That the said Northup, being about bringing the 
said Solomon to las native jDlace, through the southern routes, 
the civil authorities ai'e requested to let the aforesaid color- 
ed man Solomon pass unmolested, he demeaning well and 

" 6"i\'en under my hand and the seal of the city of New-Or- 
leans this 7 th January, 1S53. 

[l. s.] "TH. GENOIS, Recorder." 

On the Sth we came to Lake Pontchartrain, by rail- 
road, and, in due time, following the usual route, 
reached Charleston. After going on board the steam- 
boat, and paying our passage at this city, Mr. North- 
up was called upon by a custom-house officer to ex- 
plain why he had not registered his servant. He 


replied that he had no servant — that, as the agent of 
New-York, he was accompanying a free citizen of that 
State from shivery to freedom, and did not desire nor 
intend to make any registry whatever, 1 conceived 
from his conversation and manner, th(nigh I may per- 
liaps he entirely mistaken, that no great j^ains would 
be taken to avoid whatever difficulty the Charleston 
officials might deem projjcr to create. At length, 
however, we were permitted to proceed, and, passing 
through liichiiioud, wlu-ro I caught a glimpse of 
Goodin's pen, arrived in AVashiugtoii January 17th, 

We ascertained that both Ijurch and riadl)urn were 
still residing in that city. lunuediately a complaint 
was entered with a police magistrate of Washington, 
against James II. Ihircli, for kidnapping and selling 
me into slavery. He was arrested upon a warrant 
issued by Justice Goddard, and returned before Jus- 
tice IMansel, and held to bail in the sum of three thou- 
sand dollars. When first arrested, Burch was much 
excited, exliiliiting the utmost fear and alarm, and be- 
fore reaching the justice's office on Louisiana Ave- 
nue, and before knowing tlie precise nature of the 
complaint, begged the police to permit him to consult 
Benjamin (). Shekels, a slave trader of seventeen 
yeai-s' standing, and his former partner. The latter 
became his bail. 

At ten o'clock, the ISth of January, 1)oth parties 
ajipeared before the magistrate. Senator Chase, of 
Ohio, Hon. Orville Clark, of Sandy Hill, and Mr. 


ISTortlmp acted as counsel for the prosecution, and Jo- 
seph TI. Bradh^v for the defence. .■^. 

Gen. Orville Cdark was called and sworn as a wit- 
ness, and testified that he had known me from child- 
hood, and that I was a free man, as was mj father he- 
fore me. Mr. jSTortliup then testified to the same, and 
proved the facts connected with his mission to Avoy- 

Ehenezer Iladburn M-as tlien swni'n for the prosecu- 
tion, and testified he was forty-eight years old ; that 
he was a resi-dcut of AVasliington, and had known 
Burch fourteen years ; tliat in 18-11 he was keeper of 
Williams' slave }>en ; that he remembered tlie fact of 
my confinement in the pen that year. At this point 
it was admitted by the defendant's counsel, tliat I had 
been placed in the pen by Burch in the spring of 
181:1, and hereupon the prosecution rested. 

Benjamin O. Shekels was then offered as a witness 
by the prisoner. Benjamin is a large, coai'se-featured 
man, and the reader may perhaps get a somewhat 
correct conception of him by reading tlie exact lan- 
guage housed in answer to the fii^st question of de- 
fendant's lawyer. lie was asked the place of his na- 
tivity, and his reply, uttered in a sort of rowdyisli 
way, was in these very wtu'ds — 

" I was born in Ontario county, ISTew-York, and 
weighed fourteen pou>)ds f 

Benjamin was a prodigious baby ! He further tes- 
tified that he kept the Steamboat Hotel in Wiishing- 
ton in 1841, and saw nie there in the spring of that 


year. lie was proceeding to state what he had lieard 
two men say, when Senator Chase raised a legal ob- 
jection, to wit, that the sayings of third persons, be- 
ing hearsay, was improper evidence. Tlie objection 
was overruled by the Justice, and Shekels continued, 
stilting tluit two men came to his liotel and represent- 
ed tliey had a colored man for sale ; that tliey had an 
interview with Eurch ; that they stated they came 
from Georgia, but he did not remember the county ; 
that they gave a i'ull liistory of the boy, saying he was 
a bricklayer, and played on the violin ; that Burcli 
remarked he would purchase if they could agree ; that 
they went out and brought the boy in, and that I Avas 
the same person. lie further testified, with as 
much xmconcern as if it was the truth, that I rep- 
presented I was born and bred in Georgia ; that 
one of the young men with me was my master ; that 
I exhibited a great deal of regret at parting with him, 
and he believed " got into tears !" — nevertheless, that 
I insisted my master had a right to sell me ; that he 
oucjld to sell me ; and the remarkable reason I gave 
was, according to Shekels, because he, my master, 
"had been gambling and on a spree !" 

lie continued, in these words, copied from the min- 
utes taken on the examination : " Bureh interrogated 
the l)oy in the usual manner, told him if he purclias- 
ed him he should send him south. Tlie boy said jie 
bad no objection, that in fact he would like to go 
south. Burch paid $G50 for him, to my knowledge. 
I don't know what name was given him, but think it 


was not Solomon. Did not know the name of eitlie;* 
of the two men. They were in my tavern two or threa 
houi-s, during which time the boy played on the vio- 
lin. The bill of sale was signed in my bar-room. It 
was a printed hlank^ filled np l>y Burch. Before 1838 
Bnrch Avas my partner. Our business was buying 
and selling slaves. After that time he was a partner 
of Theophilus Freeman, of ISTew-Orleans. Burcli 
bought here — Freeman sold there !" 

Shekels, before testifying, had heard my relation of 
the circumstances connected with the visit to Wash- 
ington with Brown and Hamilton, and therefore, it 
was, undoubtedly, he s^^oke of *' two men," and of my 
playing on the violin. Such was his fal)rication, ut- 
terly untrue, and yet there was found in "Washington 
a man who endeavored to corroborate him. 

Benjamin A. Thorn testified he was at Shekels' in 
1811, and saw a colored boy playiug on a fiddle. 
" Sliekels said he was for sale. Heard his master tell 
him he should sell him. The boy acknowledged to me 
he was a slave. I was not present when the money 
was paid. Will not swear positively this is the boy. 
Tlie master came near shedding tears : I thinh the hoy 
did! I have been engaged in the business of takinc: 
slaves south, off and on, for twenty years. When I 
can't do that I do something else." 

I was then offered as a*Mdtness, but, objection be- 
ing made, the court decided my evidence inadmissible. 
It was rejected solely on the ground that I was a col- 


oretl man — tlio fact of my lieing a free citizen of 
No\v-Vi)rk not Ix'ini:; disputed. 

Shekels luivin<jj testified there was a bill of sale ex 
edited, Burch was called upon by the prosecution to 
produce it, inasmuch as such a paper would corrobo- 
rate the testiniitiiy of Thorn and Shekels. The pris- 
oner's counsel saw the necessity of exhibiting it, or 
giving some reasonable exphmation for its non-pro- 
duction. To effect the latter, Burch himself was offer- 
as a witness in his own behalf. It was contended by 
counsel for the people, that such testimony should not 
be allowed — that it was in contravention of every 
rule of evidence, and if permitted would defeat the 
ends of justice. His testimony, however, was receiv- 
ed by the court ! He made oath that such a bill of 
sale had been drawn up and signed, Init he had lost it, 
and did not hnoio what had hecome of it ! Thereup- 
on the magistrate was requested to dispatch a police 
officer to ]iurch's residence, with directions to bring 
his books, containing his bills of sales for the year 
1841. The request was granted, and before any meas- 
ure could be taken to prevent it, the officer had ob- 
tained possession of the books, and br(jught them into 
court. The sales for the year 1841 wei'O found, and 
carefully examined, but no sale of myself, by any 
name, was discovered I 

Upon this testimony the court held the fact to be 
establisheil, that Ihirch came innocently and honestly 
by me, and accordingly he was discharged. 


An attempt ^as tlicn uitiilc by Burcli and liis sat- 
ellites, to fasten u2)on me tlie charge that I had con- 
spired with the two white men to defraud liim — with 
wdiat success, appears in an extract taken from an ar- 
ticle in the Xew-York Times, published a day or two 
subsequent to the trial : '• The counsel for the defend- 
ant had draAvn up, before the defendant was dis- 
charged, an aliidavit, signed by Burch, and had a 
warrant out against the colored man f:)r a conspiracy 
with the two white men before referred to, to defraud 
Burch out of six hundred and twenty-five dollars. 
The warrant was served, and the colored man arrest- 
ed and brought before officer Goddard. Burch and 
his witnesses appeared in court, and II. B. j^ortliup 
appeared as counsel for the colored man, stating he 
was ready to proceed as counsel on the part of the de- 
fendant, and asking no delay whatever. Burch, after 
consulting privately a short time with Shekels, stated 
to the magistrate that he wished hini to dismiss the 
complaint, as he would not proceed farther with it. 
Defendant's counsel stated to the magistrate that if 
the complaint was withdrawn, it must be without the 
request or consent of the defendant. Burch then 
asked the magistrate to let him have the complaint 
and the warrant, and he took them. The counsel for 
the defendant objected to his receiving them, and in- 
sisted they should remain as part of the records of the 
court, and that the court should endorse the proceed- 
ings which had been had under the process. Burch 
delivered them up, and the court rendered a judg- 


meat of" (liseoiitimiance l)y the i'C(|UCst of the prosecu- 
tor, and tiled it in his olliee. " 

There may he those who will affect to helieve the 
statement of the slave-trader — those, in whose minds 
his allegations will weigh heavier than mine. I am a 
poor colored man — one of a down-trodden and de- 
graded race, whose luimhle voice may not be heeded 
by the o})pressor — bnt I'mnolng the truth, and with a 
full sense of my accountability, I do solemnly declare 
before men, and before God, that any charge or as- 
sertion, that I conspired directly or indirectly with 
any jjerson or persons to sell myself; that any other 
account of my visit to Washington, my capture and 
im}»risonment in Williams' slave pen, than is contain- 
ed in these pages, is utterly and a1)Solutely false. I 
never played on the violin in Washington. I never 
"was in the Steamboat Hotel, and never saw Tliorn or 
Shekels, to my knowledge, in my life, until last Jan- 
uary. The story of the trio of slave-traders is a fab- 
rication as absurd as it is base and unfounded. Were 
it true, I should not have turned aside on my way 
back to liberty for the purpose of prosecuting Burch. 
I should have avoided rather than sought him. I 
should have known that such a step would have re- 
sulted in rendering me infamous. Under the circum- 
stances — longing as I did to behold my family, and 
elated with the prospect of returning home — it is an 
outrage upon probability to suppose I would have run 
the hazard, not only of ex^^osure, but of a criminal 


prosecution aiul conviction, by voluntarilv placing 
myself in tlie position I did, if the statements of 
Burch and liis confederates contain a particle of truth. 
I took pains to seek liim out, to confront him in a 
court of law, charging him with the crime of kidnap- 
ping ; and the only motive that innpelled me to this 
step, was a burning sense of the wrong he had inflict- 
ed upon me, and a desire to bring him to justice. 
He was acquitted, in the manner, and by such ineans 
as have been described. A human tribunal has per- 
mitted him to escape ; but there is another and a 
higher tribunal, where false testimony will not pre- 
vail, and where I am willing, so f^ir at least as these 
statements are concerned, to be judged at last. 

"We left Washington on the 20th of January, and 
proceeding by the vs'ay of Philadelphia, Xew-York, 
and Albany, reached Sandy Hill in the night of the 
21st. My heart overflowed with happiness as I look- 
ed around upon old familiar scenes, and found myself 
in the midst of friends of other days. The following 
morning I started, in company with several acquaint- 
ances, for Glens Falls, the residence of Anne and our 

As I entered their comfortable cottage, Margaret 
was the first that met me. She did not recognize me. 
AVhen I left her, she was but seven years old, a little 
prattling girl, playing with her toys. Now she was 
grown to womanhood — was married, with a bright- 
ejed boy standing by her side. ]N^ot forgetful of his 


enslaved, unfortunate graml-fatlier, she had named the 
chiUl Solomon Xorthup Staunton. AVhen told wlio 
I was, she was overcome witli emotion, and unable to 
speak. Presently Elizabeth entered the room, and 
Anne came running from the liotel, having been in- 
formed of my arrival. 1'liey embraced me, and with 
tears flowing down their cheeks, hung upon my neck. 
But I draw a veil over a scene which can better be 
imagined than described. 

AVhen the violence of our emotions had subsided to 
a sacred joy — when the hotisehold gathered round 
the fire, that sent out its warm and crackling comfort 
through the room, we conversed of the thousand 
events that had occurred — the hopes and fears, the 
joys and sorrows, the trials and troubles we had each 
experienced during the long separation. Alonzo was 
absent in the western part of the State. The boy 
had written to • his mother a short time previous, of 
th*e prospect of his obtaining sufficient money to pur- 
chase my freedom. From his earliest years, that had 
been the chief object of his thoughts and his ambi- 
tion. Tliey knew I was in bondage. The letter writ- 
ten on board the brig, and Clem Eay himself, had 
given them that information. Ihit where I was, until 
the arrival of Bass' letter, was a matter of conjecture. 
Elizabeth and Margaret once returned from school — 
so Anne informed me — weeping bitterly. On incpiir- 
ing the cause of the children's sorrow, it was found 
that, while studying geograj)]!}', their attention had 
been attracted to the picture of slaves working in the 


cotton-field, and an overseer following them with his 
■whip. It reminded, them of the suiicrings their fa- 
ther might be, and, as it liappened, actually ww.9, en- 
during ill the South. Numerous incidents, such as 
these, were related — incidents showing they still held 
me in constant remembrance, but not, j)erhaps, of 
suflicient interest to the reader, to be recounted. 

My narrative is at an end. I have no comments to 
make upon the subject of Slavery. Those who read 
this book may form tlieir own opinions of the " pe- 
culiar institution." "What it may be in other States, 
I do not profess to know ; what it is in the region of 
Hed Eiver, is truly and faithfully delineated in these 
pages. This is no fiction, no exaggeration. If I have 
failed in anything, it has been in presenting to the 
reader too jDrominently the bright side of the picture. 
I doubt not hundreds have been as unfortunate as 
myself; that hundreds of free citizens have been kid- 
napped and sold into slavery, and are at this mo- 
ment wearing out their lives on plantations in 
Texas and Louisiana. But I forbear. Chastened 
and subdued in sj^irit by the sufferings I have borne, 
and thankful to that good Being through whose mer- 
cy I have been restored to happiness and liberty, 
I hope henceforward to lead an upright though lowly 
life, and rest at last in the church yard where my fa- 
ther sleeps. 

N* 21 




r^n—j, — i^rff^ — 






D. C. 


" narpor'a creek and roarin' ribber, 
lliar, my ilear, we'll live forebber; 
Den Wf'll go to de Iiigin nation, 
All I want in dis creation, 
Is pretry little wife and big plantation. 

Up dat oak and down dat ribber, 
Two overseers and one little nigger." 


A.— ra^e 291. 

CHAR 375. 

An act 7nore effcctuaUy to protect the free citizens of this State 
from being kidnapped^ or reduced to Slavery. 

[Passed ]\Iay 14, 1840.] 

Tlie People of the State of New-Yorlv, represented in Sen- 
ate and Assembly, do enact as follows : 

§ 1. "Whenever the Governor of this State shall receive 
information satisfactory to liim that any free citizen or any 
inhabitant of this State has been kidnapped or transported 
away out of this State, into any other State or Territory of the 
United States, for the purpose of being there held in slavery ; or 
that such free citizen or inliabitant is wrongfully seized, im- 
prisoned or held in slavery in any of the States or Territories 
of the United States, on the allegation or pretence that such 
a person is a slave, or by color of any usage or rule of law 
prevailing in such State or Territory, is deemed or taken to bo 
a slave, or not entitled of right to the personal liberty belong 
uig to a citizen ; it sliall be the duty of the said Governor to 


toko siic-h measures as he shall cli'cm neeossary to procure such 
porson to be restored to his libert}- and returned to this State. 
The Governor is hereby authori/A'd to ajipoint and employ such 
agent or agents as he shall de-em ntcessjuy to eilect the restora 
tion and return of such person ; and shall luriiish the said agent 
■with such credentials and instruetiuns as will be likely to ao 
coniplish the ol)ject of liis a])pointment. The Governor may 
determine the compensiition to be allowed to such agent for his 
services besides his necessary expenses. 

§ 2. Such agent shall proceed to collect the proper proof to 
establish the right of such person to his freedom, and shall per- 
fonii such joumeys, take such measures, institute and procure 
to be prosecuted such legal proceedhigs, under the du'ection of 
the Governor, as shall be necessary to procure such person to 
be restored to his liberty and returned' to this State. 

§ 3. Tlie accounts ll^r all ser\ices and expenses inciured in 
carrying this act uito etTect shall be audited by the Comptroller, 
and paid by the Treasurer on his warrant, out of any moneys 
in the ti-easury of this State not otherwise appropriated. The 
Treasurer may ad\-ance, on the warrant of the Comptroller, to 
such agent, such sum or sums as the Governor shall certify to 
be reasonable advances to enable him to accomplish the pur- 
poses of his appointment, for which advance such agent shall 
account, on the final aucUt of his warrant. 

§ 4. Tliis act shall take effect immediately. 


B.— Page 292. 


To Ills Uxccllencij. the Governor of the State of Xew-York : 

The memorial of Anne Northup, of the viHage of Glens 
Falls, iu the comity of Warren, State aforesaid, respectfully 
sets forth — 

Tliat your memorialist, whose maiden name was Anne Hamp- 
ton, was forty-four years old on the 14th day of March last, and 
was married to Sohjmon Northup, then of Fort Edward, in 
the comity of Washington and State aforesaid, on the 25th day 
of December, A. D. 1828, by Timothy Eddy, then a Justice 
of the Peace. That the said Solomon, after such marriage, 
lived and kept house with your memorialist m said town mitil 
1830, when he removed with his said family to the town of 
Kingsbury m said county, and remamed there about tlii-ee 
years, and then removed to Saratoga Springs in the State 
aforesaid, and continued to reside in said Saratoga Springs and 
the adjouiuig town until about the year 1841, as near as the 
time can be recollected, when the said Solomon started to go to 
the city of Washington, in the District of Columl)ia, since 
which time your memorialist has never seen her said husband. 

And your memorialist further states, that in the year 1841 
she received information by a letter directed to Henry B. 
Northup, Esq., of Sandy Hill, Washington county, New-York, 
and post-marked at New-Orleans, that said Solomon had been 
kidnapj^ed in Washington, put on board of a vessel, and was 
then in such vessel in New-Orleans, but could not tell how he 
came m that situation, nor what his destination was. 

That your memorialist ever shice the last mentioned period 
has been wholly miable to obtain any uiformation of where the 
said Solomon was, mitil the month of September last, when 


another li'ttrr was ivciivoJ tVoin the said Solomon, post-marked 
at Marks\ ille, in tin- parish of Avoyfllos, in the State of Lou- 
isiana, stating that he was held there a.s a slave, which stiite- 
ment your memorialist believes to he true. 

Tluit the siiid Solomon is ahout f<)rty-rivc years of age, and 
never resided out of the St:ite of New-York, in which State he 
was born, until the time he went to ^Vashington city, as before 
stated. That the sjiid Solomon Northup is a free citizen of the 
State of New-York, and is now wi-ongfuUy held in slavery, in 
or near !Marksville, in the parish of Avoyelles, in the State of 
Louisiana, one of the United States of America, on the allegar 
lion or jjrctence that the said Solomon is a slave. 

And your memorialist further states that Mintus Northup was 
the reputed father of said Sokimon, and wjvsa negro, and died 
at Fort Edward, on the 22d day of November, 1829 ; that the 
inuther of said Solomon was a mulatto, or three quarters white, 
and died in the county of Oswego, New-York, some live or six 
years ago, as your memorialist was uaformed and believes, and 
never was a slave. 

That your memorialist and her taiiiily arc poor and wholly 
imable to pay or sustain any portion of the expenses of restor- 
ing the Siiid Solomon to his freedom. 

Your excellency is entreated to employ such agent or agents 
as shall be deemed neces.s;uy to efTect the restoration and retimi 
of said Solomon Northup, in pursuance of an act of the Legis- 
lature of the State of New-York, passed jVfay 14tli, 1840, 
entitled "An act more etVectually to protect the free citizens of 
this State fi-om being kidiiappd or reduced to slavi'ry." And 
your memorialist will ever prav. 

(Signed,) ' ANNE NORTHUP. 

Dated November 19, 1852. 


State of New-York : 

Washingliin coinity, ss. 

Anne Northup, of the village of Glens Falls, in the county 
of Warren, in said Stale, being duly sworn, doth depose and 
say that she signed the above rneniorial, and that the state- 
ments therein contauied are ti'ue. 

(Signed,) ANNE NORTHUP. 

Suliscril)ed and sworn before nie tliis 
19th November, 1852. 

Charles Hughes, Justice Peace. 

We recommend that the Governor appoint Henry B. Northup, 
of the village of Sandy Hill, Washington county, New- York, 
as one of the agents to procure the restoration and retiuri 
of Solomon Northup, named in the foi*egoing memorial of 
Anne Northup. 

Dated at Sandy Ilill, Washington Co., N. Y., 
November 20, 1852. (Signed.) 




E. D. BAKEE, JOSlAil 11. Bl:0\VN 

oeville claiik. 

State of New-York : 

Washington County, ss : 

Josiah Hand, of the village of Sandy Hill, in said county, be- 
ing duly sworn, says, he is fifty-seven years old, and was born 
in said village, and has always resided there ; tliat he has 
known ]\Iintus Northup and his son Solomon, named in the an- 
nexed memorial of Anne Northup, since previous to the year 
181G ; that Mintus Northup then, and until the time of his death, 
cultivated a farm in the towns of Kingsbury and Fort Edward, 
from the time deponent first knew him until he died; that said 
Miutus aiid Ills wife, the mother of said Solomon Northup, 

323 'rwKLVi: years a slave. 

were reported to be free citizens of New-York, and deponent 
believes they were so free ; that said Solomon Northiip wtvs 
born in said county of \\'u.shington, as deponent believes, and 
was married Dec. i25th, l!S"28, in Port Edward aforesaid, and 
his sjiid wife and three children — two daughters and one son — 
are now living in (Jlens Falls, Warren county, New-York, and 
that till' sjiid Solomon Northup always resided in said county 
of Washington, and its immediate vicinity, until about 1841, 
since which time deponent has not seen him, but deponent 
has been credibly informed, and as he verily believes truly, 
the said Solomon is now wTongfully held as a slave in the 
State of Louisiana. And deponent further says that Anne 
Northup, named in the said memorial, is entitled to credit, and 
deponent believes the statements contained in her said memo- 
rial are true. (Signed,) JOSLIII IIAND. 

Subscribed and swoni before me this 
19th day of November, 1852, 

Charles Hughes, Justice Peace. 
State ok New-Yoi;k: 

AV ashington county, ss : 

Timothy Eddy, of Fort Edward, hi said coiuity, being duly 
sworn, says he is now over — years old, and has been a resident 
of said town more than — years last past, and that he was 
well acquainted with Solomon Northup, named in the annexed 
memorial of Anne Northup, and with his father, Mintus North- 
up, who was a negro, — the wite of said Mintus was a mulatto 
woman ; that said Mintus Northup and his said wife and family, 
two sons, Joseph and Solomon, resided in said town of Fort 
Edward for several years before the year 1828, and said ^lin- 
tus died in said town A. D. 1829, as deponent believes. And 
deponent further says that he was a Justice of the Peace in 
said town m the year 1828, and as such Justice of the Peace, 
he, on the 25tli day of Dec'r, 1828, joined tlio said Solomon 



Northup in iiuinia'^c ^vilh Anne Hampton, who is the sam-e 
person who has subscribed the aiiuexed memorial. And depo- 
nent expressly says, that said Solonaon was a free citizen of 
the State of New-York, and always lived in sai<i State, until 
about the year A. D. 1840, smce which time deponent has not 
seen liim, but has receiitly been informed, and as deponent be- 
lieves truly, that said Solomon Northup is wrongfully held in 
slavery in or near Marksville, hi the parish of Avoyelles, in the 
State of Louisiana. And deponent further says, that said Min- 
tiis Northup was nearly sixty years old at the time of his death, 
and was, f()r more than thirty years next prior to his death, a 
free citizen of the State of New-York. 

And this deponent further sajs, that Amie Nortliup, the wife 
of said Solomon Northup, is of g<3od character and reputation, 
and her statements, as contained in the memorial hereto amiexed, 
are entitled to full credit. 

(Signed,) TMOTHY EDDY. 
Subscribed and sworn before me this 

19th day of November, 1852, 

TimV Stoughton, Justice. '' 

State of New-York : 
Wasliington CJoimty, ss : 

Hemy B. Northup, of the village of Sandy Hill, in said 
county, being duly sworn, says, that he is forty -seven years old, 
and has always lived in said county ; that he knew Mintus 
Northup, named in the annexed memorial, fi'om deponent's 
earliest recollection until the time of his death, which occurred 
at Fort Edward, in said county, in 1829 ; that deponent knew 
the children of said Mintus, viz, Solomon and Joseph ; that 
they were both born in the coimty of Washington aforesaid, as 
deponent believes ; that deponent was well acquainted with 
said Solomon, who is the same person named in the annexed 
meinorial of Anne Northup, from his cliildliood ; and that said 


Sulomoii always ivsidfil in saiil county vi' W'ashinj^tun and the 
adjoining ouiinties until about the year 1841 ; tiiat said JSolo- 
rnun eould read and write ; that sjiid Solomon and his mother 
and lather Mere free citizens of the Stato of New-York ; that 
sometime about the year 1841 this deponent received a letter 
from said Solomon, p<jst-marked Ni'W-Orleans, stating that 
while on busijiess at Washington city, he had been kidnapped, 
and his free paper's taken from him, and he was then on board 
a vessel, in irons, and was claimed as a sLive, and that he did 
)iot know his destination, Mhich the depiwient believes to be 
true, and he ui-ged this di'ponent to assist in [)rocuring his restora- 
tion to fivedom ; that depjnent lias lost or mislaid said letter, 
and cannot lind it; that deponent h;ts since endeavored to find 
where siiid Solomon was, but could get no fiirther trace of him 
until Sept, last, when this deponent asei'rtained by a letter pur- 
porting to have been written by the direction of said S(jlumon, 
that s;iid Solomon was lield and claimed as a slave in or near 
^larksville, in the parish of Avoyelles, Louisianii, and that this 
deponent verily beheves that such information is true, and that 
Slid Solomon is now wrongfully held in slavery at Marksville 
aforesiid. (Signed.) IIKXKY B. NOKTIIUP. 

Subscribtnl and sworn to before me 
tliis 20th day of November, 1852, 

Charles Hughes, J. P. 

State of New-York : 

AYashington CVjiaity, ss 

Nicholas C. Northiip, of the village of Sandy Hill, in said 
county, being duly sworn, floth dv'])Ose and say, that he is now 
lilly-eight years of age, and has known Solomon Northup, men- 
tioned in the annexed memorial of A;:ii Northup, ever since he 
was born. And this deponent saith that siid Solomon is now 

about forty -fi\'e years old, and was born m llic county of "NV^asii- 


ington aforesaid, or in the county of Essex, in said State, and 
ahvays resided in the State of New- York until about the year 
1841, since wliich time deponent has not seen him or l^nown 
where he was, until a few weeks since, deponent was informed, 
and believes truly, tliat said Solomon was held in slavery in 
the State of Louisiana. Deponent further says, that said Sol- 
omon was married in the town of Fort Edward, in said county, 
about twenty-four years ag(>, and that his wife and two daugh- 
ters and one son now reside in the village of Glens Falls, coun- 
ty of Warren, in said State of New-York. And this deponent 
swears positively that said Solomon Northup is a citizen of said 
State of New-York, and was born fi-ee, and from his earliest 
mfancy lived mid resided in the counties of Washington, Essex, 
Warren and Saratoga, in the State of New-York, and that his 
said wite and children have never resided out of said counties 
since the time said Solomon was married; tliatdejxrtient knew 
the father of said Solomon Northup ; that said father was a 
negi"0, named JVIintus Northup, and died in the town of Fort 
Edward, in the county of Washington, State of New-York, on 
the 22d day of November, A. D. 1829, and was buried in the 
grave-yard in Sandy Hill aforesaid ; that for more than thirty 
years before his death he lived in the counties of Essex, Wash- 
ington and Rensselaer and State of New- York, and left a wife 
and two sons, Joseph and the said Solomon, him surviving ; 
that the mother of said Solomon was a mulatto woman, and is 
now dead, and died, as deponent believes, in Oswego county, 
New-York, within five or sLx years past. And this deponent 
further states, that the mother of the said Solomon Northup 
was not a slave at the time of the birth of said Solomon North- 
up, and has not been a slave at any time within the last fitly 
years. (Signed,) N. C. NOKTilUP. 

Subscribed and sworn before me this 10th day 

of November, 1852. Charles IltGiiEs, Justice Peace. 


State of New-York : 
Washington County, ss. 

Orville Clark, of the village of Sandy Hill, in the county of 
Washbigton, Stiite of New-York, being duly sworn, doth de- 
pose and say — that he, this deponent, is over fifty years of age ; 
that m the years 1810 and 1811, or most of the time of those 
ycai"s, this deponent resided at Sandy Ilill, aforesaid, and at 
Glens Falls ; that this deponent then knew Mintus Northup, a 
black or colored man ; he was then a free man, as this depo- 
nent believes and always iniderstood ; that the wife of said 
!Mintus Northup, and mother of Solomon, was a free woman ; 
that from tlie year 1818 until the time of the death of sjiid 
Mmtus Northup, about the }ear 1829, this deponent was very 
well acquainted with the said Mintus Northup ; that he was a 
respectable man in the conmimiity in which he resided, and 
■wjis a free man, so taken and esteemed by all his acquaintan- 
ces; that this deponent has also been and was acquainted with 
his son Solomon Northup, from the said year 1818 until he 
left this part of the country, about the year 1840 or 1841 ; 
that he married Anne Hampton, daughter of AViiliam Hamp- 
ton, a near neighbor of this deponent ; that the siiid Anne, wife 
of s;iid Solomon, is now living and resides in this \-icinity ; that 
the said Mintus Northup and William Hampton were both re- 
puted and esteemed in this community as respectable men. 
And this deponent saith that the said Alintus Northup and his 
family, and the said William Hampton and liis family, from 
the earliest recollection and acquaintance of this deponent with 
him (iis far back as 1810,) were always reputed, esteemed, and 
taken to be, and this deponent believes, truly so, free citizens of 
the State of New-York. This deponent knows the siiid Wil- 
liam Hampton, under the laws of tliis State, was entitled to 
vote at our elections, and he believes the said Mmtus Northup 
also was entitled as a free citizen with tlie property qualifica- 

APPENDIX. • 333 

tion. And this deponent further saith, that the said Solomon 
Northup, son of said Mintus, and husband of said Aiine Hamp- 
ton, when he lefl this State, was at the time tliercof a fi'ec citi- 
zen of the State of New- York. And this deponent further 
saith, that said Anne Hampton, wife of Solomon Northup, is a 
respectable woman, of good character, and I would Ijelieve her 
statement-s, and do believe the fiets set forth m her memorial 
to liis excellency, the Governor, in relation to her said husband, 
are true. (Signed,) ORVILLE CLARK. 

Sworn before me, November 
19th, 1852. 

U. G. Paris, Justice of the Peace. 

State of New-York : 

Washuigton County, ss. 

Benjamin Ferris, of the \illage of Sandy Hill, in said county, 
being duly sworn, doth depose and say — that he is now fifly- 
seven years old, and has resided in said village forty-five years ; 
that he was well acquainted -with Mintus Northup, named in 
the annexed memorial of Anne Northup, from the year 1816 
to the time of his death, which occurred at Fort Edward, in the 
fall of 1829; that he knew the cliildren of the said Mintus, 
namely, Joseph Northup and Solomon Northup, and that the 
said Solomon is the same person named in said memorial ; 
that said ISIintus resided in the said county of Wasliington to 
the time of his death, and was, during all that time, a fi'ee citi- 
zen of the said State of New- York, as deponent verily believes ; 
that said memorialist, Anne Northup, is a woman of good char- 
acter, and the statement contained in her memorial is entitled 
to CTedit. 


Sworn before me, November 
19th, 1852. 

U. G. Paris, Justice of the Peace. 


State of New-York: 
Executive Chamber, Albany, Nov. 30, 1852. 
I liereby certify that the fore<Toing is a correct copy of cer 
tain proofs filed m the Executive Department, upon which 1 
have appointed Henry IJ. Northup an Agent of this State, to 
take proper proceedings in behalf of Solomon Northup, there 
in nienlioued. 


By the Governor. 

J. F. IJ., Private Secretary. 

State of New-Youk : 
Executive Department. 
Washington Hunt, Governor of the State of New-Yoric, 

to whom it may concern^ greeting : 

Whereas, I have received information on oath, which is sat- 
isfactary to me, that Solomon Northup, who is a frt-u citizen of 
this State, is wrongfully held in slavery, in the State of Lou- 
isiana : 

And whereas, it is made my duty, by the laws of this State, 
to take such measures as I shall deem necessary to procure any 
citizen so wrongfully held in slavery, to be restored to his lib- 
erty and returned to this State : 

Be it known, that in pursuance of chapter 375 of the laws of 
this State, passed in 1840, 1 have constituted, appointed and em- 
ployed Henry B. Northup, Esquire, of the county of Washing- 
ton, in this State, an Agent, with full power to effect the resto- 
ration of said Solomon Northup, and the said Agent is hereby 
authorized and empowered to institute such proper and legal 
proceedings, to procure s-uch evidence, retain such counsel, and 
finally to take such measiu'cs as will be most likely to accom- 
plish the object of his s;iid appointment. 

He is also instructed to proceed to the State of Louisiana 

ArPKXDix. 335 

vnth all convenient disjiuU-h, to execute the agency hereby 

In witness wlieivof, I have hereunto ftul)scril)ed my name, 
[l.s.] and atlixed tlie privy seal of the State, at Albany, this 
23d day of November, in the year of our Lord 1852. 

James F. Rucules, Private Secretary. 

C— r:^e 309. 

State of Louisiana : 
I'arish of Avoyelles. 
Before me, Aristide Barl)in, Recorder of the parish of Avoy 
elles, personally came and appeared Henry B. Northup, of the 
county of Washington, State of New- York, who hath declared 
that by virtue of a commission to him as agent of the State of 
New-York, given and gi-anted by his excellency, Washington 
Hiuit, Governor of the said St^ite of New-York, bearing date 
the 23d day of November, 1852, authorizing and empowering 
him, the said Northup, to pursue and recover fi-c)m slavery a 
free man of color, called Solomon Northup, who is a free citi- 
zen of the State of New- York, and who was kidnapped and sold 
into slavery, in the State of Louisiana, and now in the possession 
of Edwin Epps, of the State of Louisiana, of the Parish of Avoy- 
elles ; he, the said agent, hereto signing, acknowledges that the 
said Edv/m has this day given and surrendered to him as such 
agent, the said Solomon Northup, free man of color, as afore- 
said, in order that he be restored to his freedom, and carried 
back to the said State of New- York, pursuant to said commis- 
sion, the said Edwin Epps bemg satisfied from the proofs pro- 
duced by said agent, that the said Solomon Northup is entitled 
to his freedom. Tlic parties consenting that a certified copy of 
said power of attorney be annexed to tliis act. 



Done and signod at IMarksville, parish of Avoyellos, this 
fourth day of January, one thousand eiglit hundred and filly- 
three, in the presence of the undersigned, legal and competent 
witnesses, who have also hereto signed. 



ADE. BARBIN, Recorder. 
Witnesses : 

11. Taylor, 
John P. AVaddill. 

State of Louisiana : 
Parish of Avoyelles. 
I do hereby certify the foregoing to be a true and correct 
copy of the original on file and of record in my office. 

Given under my hand and seal of office as Recorder 
[l. s.] in and for the parish of Avoyelles, this 4th day of 
January, A. D. 1853. 

(Signed,) ADE. BARBIN, Recorder. 



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